“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

The image Jesus left with the world the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history. But it stands, unique among all other religions of the world. Many of them have gods. But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die.

Dorothy Sayers says: For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and the lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it all worthwhile.

To some, the image of a pale body glimmering on a dark night whispers of defeat. Wat good is a God who does not control his Son’s suffering? What possible good could such a God do for us? But a louder sound can be heard: the shout of a God crying out to man, “I love you.” Love was compressed for all history in that lonely, bleeding figure. Jesus, who said he could call down the angels at any moment and rescue himself from the horror, chose not to—because of us, for God so loved us, that he sent his only Son to die for us.

Adapted from Bread and Wine (Philip Yancey)