Monday, February 17, 2014

“The Wonderful Cross”

Imagine, if you will, that you had an older brother with whom you were really close.  One day you began crossing a street without seeing a speeding truck that was headed straight for you. But your brother saw it and threw himself at you to knock you out of the truck’s path.  You thankfully were saved but sadly, your brother was killed by the speeding truck.

In the realization that you were saved by your brother’s sacrifice you’re at the same time thankful yet devastated by the loss.  The pain is dulled slightly by the discovery that your brother had named you as the beneficiary of a great inheritance.

In your desire to always remember what your brother did for you, do you wear a gold truck around your neck and proclaim, “O wonderful truck”?  Of course not, you would tell everyone about your wonderful brother!

So why focus on a cross? The early church understood that our focus is to be on Jesus and not the cross he died on, as they did not use the cross for symbolism or art; some sources say that such use was forbidden.  They saw the cross as what it was, a cruel instrument of tortuous execution by an oppressive empire.

While Jesus said that he laid his life down—no one took it from him, (John 10:17, 18) he didn’t like the idea of dying on a cross and asked his Father for another way (Matthew 26:36-44).  If anyone were to have a spiritual ecstasy over the cross, you’d think it would be Jesus but no, he was miserable at Gethsemane, miserable when he was beaten and miserable on the cross. It was “for the joy set before him [that he] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) The cross was neither the object nor the end; Jesus endured the cross for what was on the other side!  Yes, Jesus did say that we are to “take up [our] cross” (Matthew 10:38) as parts of the popular song that has the line “O the wonderful cross” say--to deny our sin nature and to rejoice when we’re persecuted for his name.  But chances are that if you’re thinking the cross is wonderful--you’re not really carrying it.

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