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The events of Good Friday are utterly breath-taking. We celebrate nothing less than this: "that God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:20).

We are talking here about something that happens at the very foundations of the universe. Call it cosmic redemption, ontological healing, metaphysical reconciliation, the Bible's version of Star Wars, or whatever helps you think about the largest, most ultimate reality, the "Really Real," capital R, capital R.

And it is all accomplished through what seems like a paradox. "Making peace through the blood of his cross" is like saying that a nuclear missile has become an olive-branch, that Guantanamo has become a garden of healing, that a sword has been turned into a plowshare, that a tank has been turned into a tractor. The very thought of it leaves us weak in the knees with astonishment.

That is only the beginning of the paradox. This is the day when the Living Water says "I thirst." It is the day when the Bread of Life hungers, the Resurrection and the Life dies, the Priest becomes the Sacrifice, the King of the Jews is killed like a criminal. No wonder we stammer in the face of this mystery.

Our minds wander off trying to imagine what kind of cosmos we live in—where the shameful death of an innocent man can serve as a payment for sin, a ransom for the captive, a conquest of evil, a source of healing, a sacrifice to end all sacrifice (what a gift—all these mutually correcting scriptural images). Imagining that kind of world is enough to make our minds ache, given that we swim in the waters of a culture where debt generates more debt, and violence generates more violence. It takes ...

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