I was taken aback in reading Will Willimon’s response in Christianity Today to the invitation to provide a response to their column, “How I Have Changed since 9/11.” Willimon is no stranger to the pages of Christianity Today. After twenty years as dean of Duke University Chapel and professor at Duke Divinity School, he is now bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Here’s what he said as the climax of his response: “September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world.”
He had my full attention. Preach it, Brother!
But he continued, “I have resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own son.”
What? You call it a bad day when the Son of God just died for your sins, taking the wrath of God upon Himself that you deserve? You call it a bad day when provision has been made so that your sins can be forgiven and you can receive eternal life?
You are right that “a consortium of clergy and politicians” conspired to kill Jesus, but you are wrong to call the outcome the “worst day in history.” I’m grateful for the much better explanation provided in Peter’s first sermon in the Book of Acts.
“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Acts 2:23, 24 English Standard Version
Further clarification comes in the prayer meeting of the church after Peter and John were first arrested and released, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:25-28 ESV
Yes, evil men conspired against a righteous man. No, it was not a tragedy, the “worst day in history.” It along with the Resurrection on the third day and his future return when we will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV) are the best days in history. Evil men played into the sovereign hand of God to bring about our rescue. That is not just a good day; that is the best of the best days.
To God be the Glory!