Sunday, May 02, 2021

Inbox: Meditating on the Cross

Recently received from Bernie, and well worth sharing:

“ ‘Don’t cross me.’

  ‘You’re making me cross.’

  ‘I’m at a crossroad.’

All these common phrases speak to a conflict — and not a minor one at that. “Cross” is the coming together of two (often mutually contradictory) standards. What you are choosing to do is not what I want you to do — and thus I am “cross”, or you are “crossing” me. When I’m at a “crossroad”, I am faced with a choice that is one of two directions that do not go to the same place.

“Cross” is a collision, an intersection, a choosing point.

Think now of the physical symbol. A cross is composed of two beams. The first is a lateral beam running parallel to the earth itself and is, in some sense, earth-bound. The second beam is vertical and while one end is fixed in the ground and terminates there, the other points skyward and reaches — if extended — to the very heavens themselves.

This then is the cross of Christ: a violent collision between ground and sky, between earth and heaven. Everything about the cross is collision and choice.

Is it a symbol of shame? The world, in its fixed lateral thinking, says Yes, of course. This upstart Nazarene is now given to the most shameful of deaths. We will beat him, we will strip him and spit on him. He will die like a common criminal and he, if he is remembered for even a moment, will only be remembered as a failure and a mockery. The world says the cross is something of which anyone associated with “this Jesus person” should be deeply ashamed.

But there is a heavenly idea of the cross too. It runs in opposition to the earth’s idea of shame — and heaven’s idea of the cross arrives with a shattering impact in Galatians 6:14. The cross is not a point of shame; it is exactly and precisely the opposite. The cross is not just something in which we are to glory, it is the only thing in which we are to glory. Earth’s view of the cross meets heaven’s view of the cross and the point of collision is where the Lord was hanged.

Is the cross then a symbol of justice? One idea of ‘justice’ is the world’s lateral and limited view: justice involves false witnesses, show trials and a sentence of death from a court that knows the accused is utterly innocent. The world judged “this Jesus person” and found him irredeemable and worthy of death.

But there is an opposing idea of justice that is there at the cross too — it’s heaven’s idea of justice in Romans 3:26. Heaven says Calvary was not at all about Jesus being judged and found worthy of death — it was instead about God demonstrating a justice that demanded blood and a better sacrifice than the animals of the Old Testament — and that in that sacrifice it was not Jesus being judged but the world itself. The end result of that judgment was not that some would die but rather that some could live — and live eternally. The cross shows that the world is unjust — but it shows something better than that — heaven’s idea that God should be both just and justifier of sinful men through the death of Christ.

Is the cross then a symbol of defeat? That’s the world’s idea of course; earthbound thinking that cannot rise higher than itself. Jesus of Nazareth was a rebel who fought but ultimately lost. The cross is the victory of the powerful political and religious forces that opposed him. That’s certainly what the “rulers of this age” (enigmatic phrase!) thought in 1 Corinthians 2:8

But heaven’s view of the cross is not defeat, it is victory — and no small victory at that. The cross is the place where Satan brought his best and most feared weapon; Messiah would die and put an end to all God’s promises and all man’s faint hopes. But in that cross Satan does not inflict a fatal wound, he receives one. His best weapon, his choice tool, is ripped from his hand and shattered into uselessness.

One could go on, I suppose. But the picture of the cross as a meeting point between two views that cannot be reconciled is a powerful image to my way of thinking. The cross is a place of endless contrast and collision between earth’s ideas and heaven’s ideas — and in every case, the world’s philosophy is ground into powder and blown into the void. Christ’s name will be forgotten through the cross? No indeed, it will be the very reason his name will be above every name and commemorated for eternity. Man will judge Christ? No indeed, the cross is the very reason the Lamb will be the one to break the seals.

On and on it goes …”

Indeed it does.

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