Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Remembering the Cross

DT10248

The soldier walked up to the condemned man’s side 

To test his wounds to assure he died 

When his spear came up the sky it cried 

The earth moaned and split open wide 



I can’t explain everything I saw 

When the water fell I felt it fall 

I held the feet of a Nazarene 

My hands are stained I want them clean

- Mike Mangione, Hands Are Stained

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) These are powerful words uttered by the apostle Paul. Think about being so devoted that you are only focused on knowing one thing. Paul understood the significance of the cross of Christ. He understood that everything else is meaningless without the cross. The cross shapes our lives as Christians. It is a lens in which we see the world. It is the means of our salvation. This is why we say the cross is central to the Christian faith. Without the cross there would be no Christianity.

Since the cross is so vital, it is important to consider how we view it. Scripture speaks of the cross in different ways. Jesus is glorified on the cross. When he is lifted up, he draws all people to himself. Our salvation is dependent upon the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice is the greatest act of love this world has ever known. At the same time, it is also a torture device, a cruel means of punishment. Those who hang on a cross are cursed. The cross reminds us of everything that is wrong with the world. An innocent man was crucified because it was the will of the people. The cross can be viewed in different ways depending on which Scripture is being emphasized. The beauty of the cross and the ugliness of the cross are both important. We learn important lessons from each of them, and we must be mindful that we do not neglect either view.

In our culture, we tend to emphasize the positive elements of the cross. We see it as a symbol of salvation. We wear it as jewelry, and we decorate our walls with it. Many people probably look at a cross nowadays and never think about death. They may not even realize that the cross was once a torture device. We don’t like to think about death or suffering. We would rather focus on all the blessings we get from the cross and skip over the pain and agony that Jesus endured. There will be ministers in America that preach on the resurrection this Sunday without ever mentioning the cross. How is that possible? The reason Jesus has to be resurrected is because he was crucified on a cross. The two events go hand and hand, but some people are so focused on the positive that they will not mention Jesus dying for the sins of the world. This is a problem. There is no gospel without the crucified Savior.

Before we hear the good news of the resurrection, we must spend time meditating on the sacrifice of the cross. One of the greatest meditations on the cross was written before Jesus ever took on flesh and walked this earth.

He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:3-5)

These are strong words. Jesus was despised and rejected. Think about that. The God of the Universe was despised by the people he came to save. The Creator was rejected by his creation, and yet that did not even stop him. His love for us is so great that he continued with his mission. He died for us, and we need to recognize the pain and agony Jesus endured on our behalf. From the cross, he cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the cry of one who has been rejected, one who has been despised.

Jesus’ cry from the cross is a lament. Isaiah says Jesus is a man of sorrows. Jesus came face to face with everything that is wrong with the world. He was an innocent man that was put to death. The cross shows us what humanity is capable of. We will torture an innocent man. We will put to death the very person who comes to help us. I say “we” because we are all implicated in the death of Jesus. He died for our sins. When we read the accounts of the crucifixion, we should picture ourselves in the crowd as they chant “Crucify him!”

As Jesus looks out upon this scene, he becomes a man of sorrows. These people who bear the image of God have turned their backs on the living God. They have spit in his face. They have mocked him and called for his death. The despised and rejected Jesus laments what has happened to humanity. He grieves what the world has become. This is a terrible scene, but it’s not the only scene like this. Humanity has not gotten any better. This world has not changed much in 2,000 years. Jesus continues to lament the circumstances of our day, and sometimes we are even a part of it. We are responsible for the ugliness that is present in our world. We sin. We fall short. This does not cause Jesus to love us any less. Paul tells us in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Jesus loves us no matter what, but he laments when we do not live as we ought to live.

Jesus does more than lament. Isaiah says he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. One of the most radical things to ever happen was that God took on flesh. He was born. He walked this earth. He had a physical body just like you and I. This was difficult for people to wrap their mind around in Jesus’ day. One of the first heresies the church had to deal with was the belief that Jesus did not come in the flesh. This heresy pops up while there were still living eyewitnesses to Jesus, people who touched him and ate with him. Why would people deny that Jesus had a physical body? It is easier to explain a spiritual god, than it is a God who bleeds and dies. This was mind blowing to the ancient world. We have grown accustom to this fact, but it is still just as incredible. God bled for us. He was pierced for us. He died for us.

Jesus was aware of what was going on while all of this cruelty was taking place. If this were to happen to one of us. We would object. We would protest. We would scream and fight. Jesus does none of this. He is despised and rejected. He is beaten. He is nailed to a cross, and what does he do? He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) All of this is an act of love. The cross is both horrific and beautiful. When we meditate upon the cross, we should feel the weight of our sins. It was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross! We are responsible. We are guilty. We had a hand in the greatest act of injustice this world has ever known. How can we live with ourselves? We can live with ourselves because as we are overwhelmed with our sin, we also remember that it is at the cross that our sins are taken away. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, but it was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that takes them away. Jesus’ love is greater than our sin.

The cross also helps us overcome our sin because it reminds us how we are to live. Why do we sin? What is the cause of most of our sin? It is selfishness. We are thinking of ourselves rather than thinking of others. We choose our desires and pleasures over love. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate act of love. It was complete and total unselfishness. Jesus gave himself. He gave his body for you and me. Becoming a Christian means we receive the benefits of the cross, but it also means the cross becomes our way of life. We give up our sinful ways. We turn away from selfishness and we begin to live for others just as Jesus did. The cross gives us a brand new lifestyle. It invites us to live for something bigger than ourselves. This new mission brings us joy and happiness because we transition from being inward focused to being outward focused.

It is important that we acknowledge the suffering and death of Jesus because if we don’t, we miss out on one of the greatest blessings of the cross. When we think of the cross, we often focus on salvation. On the cross, the Father was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Salvation is central to the message of the cross, but it is not the only blessing associated with the cross. Jesus suffers and dies and because of this he enters into our own suffering and death. This means we are never alone.

One of the greatest questions ever posed is “Why do we suffer?” This is a question that all of us ask at some point in our life. We all suffer and we all want to know why. This is a difficult question to answer. It is a complex question and it deserves a complex answer. It is not to be taken lightly. At the same time, we must recognize that the answer to the question of suffering is not an answer but a person. Jesus enters into our suffering. Whenever we suffer, he is there. He is present with us. He understands our pain. He knows what it is like. We never suffer alone.

The cross is good news, but it is also important that we spend time reflecting on everything Jesus did for us. We must not skip over the pain, rejection, and death just to get to all the benefits. If we move too quickly, we miss out on all that Jesus has to offer. We know too well that life is not a bed of roses. It is a journey with peaks and valleys. We need to know that Jesus walks with us no matter if we are on a mountaintop or in the valley of the shadow of death. Reflecting on the cross will prepare us for the moments of pain and suffering that we all face.

Isaiah says that Jesus was a man of sorrows. This was not the only emotion he felt, but it was one of them. Too often in our modern culture, we try our best to avoid sorrow and lament. Although the psalms are filled with laments, they are absent from our hymnbooks. The people of God have sung laments for thousands of years and we have only recently decided they are not necessary. Lament is an important part of our faith. We experience suffering and tragedy that deserves our lament. We know there are things not right in our world and this should cause us to lament. On the cross, Jesus turns to Psalm 22, a lament.

As we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection, I think it is important that we first focus on the events that lead us to that glorious moment. We should reflect on what those early believers felt as they watched Jesus being crucified. We should meditate on the wounds of our Savior. We should spend time thinking about the cross, so that when we come together on Sunday what we experience will be a true celebration.

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