Violence – we are a culture awash in moves and counter moves. Our words and actions are attempts at power. Violence is on our TVs and devices, whether in the form of entertainment or the nightly news. We can’t go a day without hearing about some new statistic about the death rates in Chicago or about a coup in the Middle East. For many of us, we have had enough. Our hearts can’t take it anymore. Where is God in such a world as ours? How can religion even help? Maybe, religion is even at fault for the violence. Why doesn’t God just do something already?
Well, he does. It just happens to be in a way no one expected. God’s response to violence is found in a humiliated savior whose blood was poured out on a Roman torture device for us. The truly innocent suffered for the guilty. This is where we see God. This is his answer. But how do we even begin to make sense of this? How does humiliation overcome the power of evil and violence?
1. The Suffering of Christ
How can a suffering, humiliated Jew from the first century offer any hope to our world? How can we trust God to help the poor and helpless today when he couldn’t do that for his own Son? By all appearances, Jesus seemed cursed (Matt. 27:41–44). He seemed rejected by God and men, but this rejection is the key to our hope. His willingness to suffer for a crime he didn’t commit is the key to God’s response. It is the only key that will open the door to peace.
Christ went to the cross, the place of suffering and humiliation. No one could look upon him. No one could bear to watch the kind of suffering he went through. His humanity seemed to be stripped from him (Isa. 53). No one could stand with him. No one spoke for him or defended him. Everyone fled from him, for the disgrace of God and men had been laid upon him (Matt. 26:55–56). When you read the accounts of his death, shame was thick like a cloud all about him. Darkness covered the sky. The ground trembled.
In descending into the depths of our hell, Christ overcame all the evil that this world could muster. He overcame death, hell, and the devil himself. In the perfect Lamb of God suffering for the guilty, the law’s demands could no longer be spoken before God. The devil can no longer speak of our guilt. Death has lost its voice and sting. Violence finally has an answer in the silence of Christ.
2. The Forgiveness in Christ
By allowing himself to fall under the sword of judgment, Jesus broke the power of evil and death. He broke the power of violence through his humility. He didn’t allow himself to be caught in the game that vengeance plays, and in so doing, he opened the door to peace. He opened the door to peace with God and other men by paying a penalty that we all deserve. Our hearts are filled with the violence that put Christ on the cross, but he went to the cross because he still loved us. He loves us and forgives us by suffering in our place.
Forgiveness and love break the power of vengeance and pride. Our God has forgiven us in Christ, and so we have nothing to fear. Our savior willingly gives himself for crimes he didn’t commit and releases us from what our world deserves. The game of violence has an end in him.
When the violent Pilate spoke, Jesus said nothing to defend himself (Mark 15:4). He went silently to his unjust death. In his pride, Satan laid his trap to catch God in that cycle of vengeance. Yet, instead of destroying God’s promises of salvation, Satan was himself overcome in Jesus. This is where God speaks—in the silence of Jesus. Jesus remained silent before Pilate so that he could forever speak for us and intercede for sinners like you and me. This is where we can be forgiven of our own violence.
3. The Wisdom in Christ
God’s response was promised before the ages began. When the innocent man suffered on the behalf of many, violence would be overcome. Death itself would be undone. Evil is overcome through a humble sacrifice. “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). Christ’s death on behalf of this world of evil and shame overcomes all evil. Christ opens his arms to us on the cross and he brings us to everlasting peace. This is to whom we must turn.
In this very weakness, we find God’s mercy and grace. The weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men. “The wisdom of this world is folly with God… So let no one boast in men” (1 Cor. 3:19). This is the wisdom of God that seems like utter foolishness. Through the wisdom of God now revealed to us, death and violence have their answer. God’s Son was nailed to a cross and raised victorious over the evil of this world. His strength has broken the gates of hell, and thus, we have nothing to fear at his side.
This is the only solution to violence – a suffering savior whose blood was poured out, so that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14a-15). Where is God in our world of violence? We find him hanging on a cross, defeating evil by his silent humiliation and sacrifice. He, therefore, was raised victorious from the grave as the Lord of life!