A God Has Died

Let the same mind be in
that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

he humbled himself
and became obedient
to the point of death
even death on a cross.

(Philippians 2:5-8 NRSV)

It is dawn on Good Friday. This day, I contemplate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the day of the Cross, the day when our Lord and God died.

Throughout my life, I have struggled with the idea of the Cross. As a Latter-day Saint, I sought to celebrate the living Christ, not the dying one. But until this moment, I do not think I fully realized why this moment, this day, the very act of a God dying, is so significant.

We speak in our faith tradition of our ultimate concern: to become like God. We speak of God as an exalted human. Indeed, our literalized understanding of exaltation is to become a literal God. Yet in this moment, this day, in the very act of dying on the Cross, Jesus Christ—a God and Son of God– did the exact opposite.

A God has died.

What does this mean? The stark words are impossible to embrace. God is immortal and cannot die. Death is the defining aspect of our humanity. To be fully human is to die. What am I missing here?

I am missing the entire point of the Cross.

In dying, God in Christ Jesus is fully human, for no other act defines mortality than death. And in realizing that God is fully incarnated in humanity, then we humans must embrace the divinity within us, and do more for the greater glory of God.

This is what it means to have the same mind within us that was in Christ Jesus. If we are to be like God, if we are to follow Jesus, if we are to realize our divinity, we must fully and paradoxically embrace our humanity. And we, as humans in the image of God, must define ourselves by emptying ourselves of our ego, our self-interest, our vain worldly pursuits.

We place these sacrifices on the Cross today.  We die, so that we, and others, might live.  Jesus said,

Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
This is my commandment,
That ye love one another,
as I have loved you.

(John 15:12-14 KJV)

How relevant is this amid this global pandemic, where the worldly systems we have created in our vanity are crumbling before us! To become like God, in this terrifying reality, is to turn to this singular idea, that our divinity is found in our humanity. And as we look around us, the better angels of our human nature are arising, to lift each other’s burdens, to mourn with those who mourn, and to give comfort to those who stand in need of comfort. Paul writes:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ,
any consolation from love,
any sharing in the Spirit,
any compassion and sympathy,

make my joy complete:
be of the same mind,
having the same love,
being in full accord and of one mind.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility regard others
as better than yourselves.

Let each of you look not to your own interests,
but to the interests of others.

(Philippians 2:1-4 NRSV)

This is the day when we see what our humanity is made of.

This is the day of the Cross.

This is the day a God has died that we might live.

2 thoughts on “A God Has Died”

  1. Mark, I read your blogs to my best friend who is now in assisted living because of memory problems. Because I am no longer allowed to go in and she can’t come out, since Easter we have been able to visit at French doors in their common living room and talk on phones through the glass. . I printed out the one on A God Has Died and read it to her as she followed along. She loved it and it gave me assurance about a struggle I’ve had recently. Then I looked back and read all of the posts on prayer.
    They are all so lovely and helpful. I have always appreciated your voice on various topics and podcasts. You are so articulate. Thank you for the inspiration and sensitivity you are offering many of us at this time. We will continue to follow the blog.

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