The angels were stunned, the stars hid their light, the universe went silent at the audacity of it, the wrongness of it, the outrageousness of it. The Judge of the guilty is himself judged guilty. Here now at last, in all the thick catalogue of human rebellion, is the lie so brazen as to surely bring down upon the heads of the insurrectionists a punishment swift and terrible. But no, the prisoner standing in the dock calmly responds, “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
In perfect freedom, the Son become the goat become the Lamb of God is condemned by the lie in order to bear witness to the truth. The truth is that we are incapable of setting things right. The truth is that the more we try to set things right, the more we compound our guilt. It is not enough for God to to take our part. God must take our place. All the blood of goats and lambs, all the innocent victims from the foundation of the world, all the acts of expiation and reparation, they only make things worse. They all strengthen the grip of the great lie that we can set things right. The grip of that lie is broken by the greatest of lies, “God is guilty!”
God must die. It is a lie so monstrous that to suggest it invites instant annihilation–except that God accepts the verdict. Those who know the awful truth hear his voice. And Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.”
But how, we must ask, is God glorified by the humiliation of God? This great reversal of everything we think we know is too much to bear. Dark is light and light is dark, right is wrong and wrong is right and a lie is recruited to the service of the truth. The order of things is shattered. Precisely so, our disordered order is shattered so that things might be restored to order. And then Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” The ruler of this world–the lord of disorder and of disordered humanity in his thrall–passes judgment on the Judge of all. The judgment is so monstrously false that only by submitting to it can its falseness be exposed. By Christ’s submitting to the judgment of the world the world is judged.
– from Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus, pp. 27-28