We often excuse our sins with the phrase, “I am only human.” Usually that means, “my faults are inevitable, and therefore excusable.” It is an easy way to brush off the burden of our faults, believing that nothing more should be expected. But when our negligence and carelessness hurts someone else, especially someone we love, then we begin to feel the real gravity of our sins, the weight of being “only human.” A drunk driver has no murderous intent. He is not malicious. In his drink, he is only seeking his consolation, his recreation. Sure, it is excessive and imprudent, but he’s only human. It may not be the best thing, but he doesn’t see the harm. That is, until he takes a life, perhaps even that of a beloved passenger. Like the drunk driver we are very good at excusing our selfishness, until we hurt someone we love.
The passion narrative is like watching a car wreck in slow motion. Jesus, the one who loves us best, the one we love, has come to us. But what finds him first is not our good will, but rather all of our human dysfunction. The greed we rationalize is there in Judas’ hands. The judgment and ridicule we heap upon others is woven into a crown of thorns. Every abuse of power and privilege to which we close our eyes is there sending our God to his death. Many would say, “I would never sell Jesus for 30 silver pieces.” Indeed, we sell him for far less, and with a shrug (we are only human). But on the Cross, we see the full impact of the inhumanity we excuse. It tortures, crushes and kills the one we love most. We understand our sins best when we see him whom they have pierced.
Yet, we are forgiven. Herein lies the joy of the gospel. God himself enters into the middle of our sins. Taking on our humanity, he bares our inhumanity. He has every right to reject us once and for all. All of our cruelty, our betrayal, even our murderous designs fall upon his shoulders; but then, rising in victory, he returns with forgiveness. Our inhumanity stretches far and wide. From the smallest fault to the most grave sin, Jesus has taken it upon himself and has offered forgiveness in return. From the Fall of our first parents, the world has been on a collision course with God. Like the drunk driver throwing back cocktails, we have been seeking ourselves through any number of indulgences, heedless of consequences. At the Cross, the crash finally happens. We see the result of our evil. We would die of shame, but for his mercy.