The beauty and completeness of the entire universe was marred by the wrong moral decision of supposedly crowning glory of God’s creation. Humanity missed the opportunity to live in paradise forever by willful disobedience. As such, the whole creation was transformed from the state of being very good to a situation where “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.“(Romans 8:22 ESV).Humanly speaking, the Fall of man (and woman, too) has put God in a dilemma. How can He show His love to humankind without breaking His own rule? The prohibition was clear from the start including the consequent penalty. To borrow Atty. Edwin R. Catacutan’s argument in his book Creation, Fall and Redemption, “was there a way to remove the cup of death from man without God breaking His word?” By all indication, God’s enemy has the upper hand and might have been amused in watching how God resolve the issue. As ever consistent in His words and actions, God’s solution makes Jesus suffering absolutely significant.
As discussed in the previous blog, justice requires a redeemer to the sentenced humanity. Legally, angels are disqualified, having no physical body and subsequent death. As progeny of Adam already burdened with own death, nobody from the human race is qualified. Hence, no one can substitute for another, or for own self, despite willful act. Neither can any one force another to sacrifice for himself. Purchasing redemption is also a legal impossibility. For, as the author argues, with reference to the bible, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24.1)
When all redemption procedures fail, grace is a necessity. In fact, it is the only redemptive option. Atty. Catacutan discussed a two-stage process in redemption by grace. The first is the payment, or justice –compliance stage. The second is the relationship-claiming stage wherein any one who wants to avail of the redeeming grace must claim his relationship to the Savior.
In the first stage, somebody who is qualified, and who can die, must do the substitute death sacrifice to comply with the justice requirement of God. The only option is a kinsman of the human race who is able and willing to do the job. A truly man, with flesh and blood not contaminated by sinful nature, who can truly experience death. The only mathematical solution is a virgin birth – child of a woman, begotten of the Holy Spirit. That way the offspring, while being man, can also be truly God who is able to perform task of redeemer. This is the significance of the incarnation as popularized by the Christmas story and the subsequent Passion and Resurrection narrative.
Paul, the apostle, has explicitly described the significance of Jesus sufferings in his letter to the Philippians: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
From the start, Jesus knows his role in the redemptive procedure. The Garden of Gethsemane, on the way to the cross, serves as venue of Jesus affirmation on his willingness to sacrifice as redeemer. There he wrestles with his humanity vis-a-vis the divine mandate. As recorded in the gospel, the scene in the garden portrays the last struggle. Jesus pours out his innermost thoughts and feelings to the Father. Reviewing the justice requirements and redemption scheme, he attempts to argue for other alternatives apart from the cup of suffering and death. In the end, he seals his commitment to undergo the last stage of redemption with this prayer: Nevertheless, your will be done, not mine.
Thereafter, the culmination of his suffering takes place. The cross is only part of the womb- to- the- tomb painful experiences of Jesus. Hence, the old rugged cross is not the only thing we must cherish and exchange someday with a crown. Our salvation is not the product of the suffering of Jesus just on the cross. It is the totality of the life of Jesus that exemplifies the love of God for humanity.