Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he must be lifted up to bring eternal life to believers.
Why would God’s salvation of the human race have to include something as horrifying as crucifixion? We live in a time when the human predicament is regularly denied, explained away, or ignored. Despite the massive counter-evidence from the moral disasters of the last century, we are still beguiled by the myth of progress: with just enough technical advancement, psychological insight, and personal liberation, we will solve our problems.
But with this sort of stupidity and superficiality the Bible has no truck. The scriptural authors understand sin not so much as a series of acts but as a condition in which we are stuck, something akin to an addiction or a contagious disease. No amount of merely human effort could possibly solve the problem.
With this biblical realism in mind, we can begin to comprehend why the Crucifixion of the Son of God was necessary. The just rapport between God and human beings could not be reestablished either through our moral effort or with simply a word of forgiveness. Something had to be done—and God alone could do it.