Some will say, “How is this just?” This is yet another critique of the cross. Some want to point at the substitutionary death of Jesus as evidence that God is not just. Otherwise, they argue, how could He allow an innocent person to suffer like this?
Such a view ignores the Trinitarian view of the cross we have been arguing for throughout this series. God doesn’t subject a random innocent person to the full weight of His wrath at the cross. No, God absorbs this weight into Himself in the second person of the Godhead. A Trinitarian understanding of the cross points us to God’s self-sacrificial nature and avoids humanistic objections such as this one.
The answer to this critique is also found by looking at the character of God as revealed in the Scriptures. the cross is an expression of God’s justice and righteousness, which we discussed a few weeks ago when we examined Romans 3:25-26. But we should be quick to note that the cross is not justice at the expense of love. Rather, it is justice motivated by love (John 3:16).
The cross is just in that it satisfies the wrath of God against sin. But as Fleming Rutledge says, it is wrath wrapped in love, wrath wrapped in mercy.
I would put it this way: Sacrifice is the place where the justice of God and the love of God meet.
The wrath of God falls upon God himself, by God’s own choice, out of God’s own love. God in Christ on the cross has become one with those who are despised and outcast in the world. No other mode of execution that the world has ever known could have established this so conclusively.Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion
I read an interview recently where Stephen Colbert was talking about the death of his mother. Colbert told the interviewer how much he had to rely on his faith during that time. He said, “In my tradition, that’s the great gift of the sacrifice of Christ — is that God does it, too … that you’re really not alone. God does it, too.”
By standing in our place, Jesus not only suffers for us; but He is also suffering with us. That’s the story of the cross.