(33) was crucified . . .

I believe that Jesus Christ was God come in the flesh to rescue mankind. Obviously this was not what most men of Jesus’ times believed. Jesus was crucified. The Jewish religion, like Roman law and Greek culture, had no place for him. But Jesus cared too much to hold his peace or go quietly away. So they ousted him. They made Jesus haul a heavy cross well outside the wall of their holy city and up a hill. There they spread him out on the wood and spiked him to it by his hands and feet. When they had heaved up the cross into its socket in the rock, they gaped in glee at their handiwork. Until he died he hung up there in the sky in naked agony—neither on the earth nor in heaven but in no-man’s-land, totally rejected and utterly accursed. Jesus was not killed from ambush by a single assassin. Nor was he lynched by a handful of hotheads. He was repudiated officially and entirely by his society and culture. They simply crossed him out for what they regarded as good and sufficient reasons.

Religious, respectable men crucified Jesus. They were our kind of people. We got most of our basic ideas about justice and mercy, faith and reason, virtue and righteousness from them. They were no breed of monsters, but well-educated, responsible men who herded Jesus to that horrible cross. Yet those highly religious, highly respectable men spawned a deed so foul that the very earth under their feet shuddered for shame, and the bright sun hid its face from the sight of them. But God in his mercy did not scrape those wretches from the earth and destroy them. If the best of us deserved nothing but destruction, what about the rest of us? Can I be sure that I would never be capable of such a horrible deed? Under certain conditions I might be capable of anything. Although God usually has me pretty well in hand through the Spirit of Christ and the controls of civilization, every so often something ugly and destructive boils up in me and in every man—something bent on destroying the work of God.

There is a destroyer, a voracious parasite in God’s garden—this world. God always had to work to keep his garden. He created his world in the midst of nothingness, and nothingness was in the midst of it. Energy always tends to dart off into the emptiness like air rushing into a vacuum. The nameless realm of nothingness sucks off the substance of my candle through its flame until there is nothing at all left of it. Candles always burn down. Finally the wax is gone, the light is gone, and the heat currents die away into the cold. Men can never bring this lost energy back together again to remake the candle. While I’m trying to move something, there’s something busy dragging it down to a dead stop. This destroyer attacks even the everlasting hills, and tears at our houses and tombstones until they crumble and vanish away. Everything that lives eventually loses its life to this deadly cosmic leech, this unseen vampire—nothingness, the destroyer. To be a creature is to be embattled and besieged. The moment God creates something, its enemy is there on its doorstep. Everything in God’s creation is vulnerable to this sinister destroyer, this ancient quicksand that seeks to swallow up God’s world. Good Lord, deliver me!