Out of Sheer Love: A Holy Week Reflection

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

 but emptied himself,
by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. —Philpippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

In the brutality of the cross of Christ we see the judgement of God on the extreme dysfunction of the sinful and rebellious human condition: our obsessions with hatred, violence, injustice, arrogance, stupidity, addictions, self-aggrandizement, scapegoating, fear, and a general culture of death—all that militates against human flourishing. God sent his Son all the way into the God-forsakenness of an ignominious death on a Roman instrument of torture.

Don’t view the crucifixion as an angry God bringing retribution on recalcitrant humankind. No. Rather, this is God himself, in Christ, taking on himself our dysfunction, sin and rebellion, putting it to death on the cross, and bringing this fallen world back into the intensity of the divine life. This is God himself condescending to the depths of hell to rescue us, redeem us, and raise us to new life; not just so we can be ethically upright, not just to forgive us of our sinfulness, but so that we may become like God, fully reconciled to God. This reconciliation is not just for us, but our neighbors, our enemies, and the entire created order as well.

This is revealed in the famous passage from John 3, “For God so loved the world, that he gave, [or sent] his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” “God so loved the world [which he created in love] that he sent his only Son…”

Out of sheer love, he brought his divine life even to the darkest places. He wanted to hunt us down, even to the furthest limits of our wonderings from him. No matter how far we run from God, we will always find ourselves running into the outstretched arms of the Savior.

Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, “Basically, in Jesus Christ’s death, Descent into Hell and Resurrection, only one reality is there to be seen: the love of the triune God for the world, a love which can only be perceived through a co-responsive love.” Von Balthasar continues by explaining that in this great act of God’s self-giving love in Christ we also see, hear, and are summoned to the call to mission.

As we enter into the core of Holy Week, let us remember with “co-responsive love” the costly, immense sacrifice of our Savior, bearing our arrogance, humiliation and sorrow. But let us also enter into the victory of Christ, celebrating the fullness of God’s love, the divine life that reaches out to reconcile all humankind and all of creation to God.


About the author

Dr. James R. Hart served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies from 2007-2024.