I was at the Shamrock Run and Walk in March on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis, looking for my daughter, Anna, when I heard a voice behind me.
“Pastor Armstrong! Hello, Pastor Armstrong!”
I turned to see a young woman with green make-up on her face, wearing a green tutu and multicolored socks.
Many of the runners wear costumes for this race.
I hadn’t seen Shana in years, but she was just the way I remembered her—laughing, smiling, and exuding positive energy.
Shana certainly has charisma, a magnetic personality.
So, what is it that makes someone attractive?
Is it a pleasant smile, a sonorous voice, a sense of humor, a passion for something or bravery in the midst of danger?
It might be all of the above, but it is also much more.
Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.”
Draw all men? That’s quite a claim.
The Apostle John immediately adds, “He said this to show what kind of death he was going to die.”
A case can be made that Jesus Christ is the most magnetic personality of all time.
And it’s not because of his good looks or great sense of humor.
The biblical writers did not even consider those qualities important enough to record. His attractiveness is bound up in his death, of all things.
That’s shocking, because we consider death one of the most unpleasant aspects of anyone’s life.
Death occurs in the midst of weakness. In death, we are not the actors. We are being acted upon by others.
And yet, death can be ennobling.
Death may lend dignity to those whose life is cut short, such as in martyrdom.
Death can lend dignity to those who courageously confront it, such as the emergency responders running toward the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
There is dignity in those whose death is substitutionary, such as Sgt. Dennis Weichel, an American soldier in Afghanistan who in March laid down his life to save a young Afghan girl.
But the death of Christ encompasses all of the above and more. It’s a brave and noble act to lay down your life for someone you do not know and who has never offended you.
But it is beyond bravery and nobility to die for those who have harmed you and who are your enemies.
That is grace abounding to sinners. It is unconditional love.
The apostle Paul wrote, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
In the midst of our rebellion against God, God himself becomes man and ends the rebellion, not by exterminating us, but by dying in our place—the righteous for the unrighteous, the innocent for the guilty, the friend of sinners for his enemies.
Foreseeing his death, Jesus said, “Now is the time for judgment on this world.”
The unexpected result is that it is a judgment of acquittal. The world is pronounced forgiven at the cross.
The most important verdict of all by the highest court of all has been rendered in your favor.
That is why sinners of every nation, language and ethnic group find the crucified and risen man from Nazareth the most attractive, compelling figure of their lives.
The Rev. John Armstrong is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Columbus, and may be reached at
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