The death of Jesus on the cross is the pinnacle and apex of the incarnation. It is His most triumphal moment. Which of us would seek to take it from Him and say, “No, no! Jesus! You cannot die a criminal’s death! You are innocent! That is only for guilty people. You must live! You must rule! You must reign! You must act like God!”
In response, as Jesus dies, He says, “I am acting like God. Don’t you see? This is what God has been doing all along!”
But we won’t allow it. We try to take away God’s most triumphant moment. By explaining away the violent portrayals of God in the Old Testament, or by calling such evil actions as “good,” we are trying to get God down off the cross.
We tell Him, “Even though You look terribly guilty in the Old Testament, we are going to call ‘good’ all those bad things You claim to have done. All that genocide and murder which would be monstrous from any person and any other god, we are going to name as ‘righteous’ and ‘holy’ because it’s from You.”
We won’t let God do what He wants to do. We won’t let Him get up on the cross. We won’t let Him incarnate Himself into the sinful affairs of mankind and so destroy His righteousness, dignity, and power. We won’t let Him appear guilty. We brush the sin and shame under the carpet. We wash the blood off of His hands and feet and side.
And how does God respond to our feeble attempts at cleaning up His tarnished image? He says,
Why do you think I made it so obvious that I was the one commanding genocide, war, and murder? I want to appear guilty! I want to take the blame! But more than that, I don’t want you to think that such behavior is ever good, is ever holy, or is ever righteous! That’s twisted!
In what universe is genocide and murder ever good? Not in any universe I created! The only universe where such things are good is the perverted, imaginary, nightmarish universe that exists only within Satan’s mind. And he is lying to you, and telling you that since I did it, these are good, and so if you want to do this too in my name, then murder and genocide and war can also be good.
Don’t fall for that trap! The reason I did what I did in the Old Testament is to expose that lie and lay bare that trap! The reason Jesus came was to make it crystal clear what kind of God I am!
I am love. I am grace. I am mercy. I am forgiving. I am long-suffering. I am patient. I am kind. Please, please, for your own sake, look at Jesus. Look at Jesus and see Me!
This is what Jesus was saying all along: “Look at Me! I will show you what God is like!” And we know that Jesus was not guilty, even though by all outward appearances, He looked exactly like a guilty criminal dying on a God-forsaken cross. But this is the incarnation. As we saw earlier from Philippians 2, it is this aspect of the incarnation—the death of Jesus on the cross—where Jesus most fully reveals God to us.
It is there that He looks guilty, that He was despised and rejected by men, that He died a criminal’s death, and took His place among the wicked. But He was not guilty of any crime. He simply took the sins of the world upon Himself so that He could conquer over sin, death, and the devil by bearing them all into the grave.