We’re continuing our study of Michael J. Gorman’s Inhabiting the Cruciform God.
So why did Jesus have to be crucified? I don’t pretend to have the complete answer. I don’t, I’m sure. But I think I have a glimpse of part of the underlying truth.
(Heb 5:7-10) During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus “learned obedience” through his sufferings. And this made him “perfect.”
We wrestle with the idea of the Son of God being “made” perfect, as though he wasn’t already sinless. And he was already sinless.
“Perfect” is teleioo, from the root telos, meaning the goal or end. N. T. Wright argues in After We Believe that “perfect” sometimes refers to God’s ultimate goal being achieved. Jesus was made perfect in the sense that he became fit for God’s finish line — the completion of the task.
Now, it was, I believe, C. S. Lewis who explained that the Spirit can do for us only what the Spirit knows how to do. Until Jesus was required to obey, the Spirit of Christ could not write on our hearts “obey.” And until Jesus was crucified, the Spirit could not write on our hearts “be co-crucified.”
In order for Jesus to walk along with us and help us, through the Spirit, to do what we have to do, Jesus had to do it first.
C. S. Lewis wrote,
A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.
Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 11, p. 110. Jesus had to suffer the ultimate in temptation to know what he is asking of us — and to have the ability to help us make it to the end.
And this means that Jesus loves us so much that he suffered crucifixion so he’d be able to help us make it to heaven. And that’s a big deal. God isn’t testing and tricking us. He is desperately, sacrificially, painfully doing what is necessary to get us to the end — and walking alongside us to make sure it happens.
Jesus was crucified so that he could help us be crucified — because it’s only those faithful to his crucifixion who will reach the telos –– the finish line — who will live with Jesus in the new age. You see, resurrection is only for those who’ve been hung on a cross. But we don’t have to cross the finish line alone.
 I can’t find the source, but I know the thought isn’t original with me.
PS — “Deep magic” is a The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Narnia) reference.