The Cross of Jesus
At the very core of the Gospel message is the events that took place leading up to and after the cross. It is the primary event of the New Testament. The 4 Gospel writers devote significant portions of their stories to the entire passion week:
- Matthew devotes roughly 25% of his Gospel to the Passion narrative
- Mark roughy 30%
- Luke about 20%
- And John commits over 40%!
Not only that, but much of Paul’s and the other New Testament letter writers bear the unmistakable signs of having the events of the cross and subsequent resurrection as their backdrop.
The 7 days preceding and surrounding the events of the cross seem to have more emphasis than anything else in all of the New Testament. Even moral living and instructions are based upon the cross. They have it as the foundation for why one ought to live morally and obediently to God. Because of the cross, we have been made righteous, so continue to live righteously and justly!
The cross is at the center of it all.
And, of course, this should not surprise anyone who has spent time devoted and dedicated to following Jesus. But perhaps it should. Perhaps we should remember how important and scandalous this is.
Because there aren’t many other groups of people who rally around a symbol of death like people who follow Jesus do. There are not jewelry-themed gifts that you give to your mother or other significant people in your life that carry an instrument of death like this one. I have not yet seen anyone wearing a necklace that prominently features an electric chair.
And yet, we do wear the cross–sometimes perhaps too lackadaisically and without enough intention and effort.
Take a moment and read the account from Luke of Jesus’ death on the cross here.
That first line has always grabbed my attention. It was noon and darkness came over the whole land. Matthew includes other harrowing details such as the earth shaking, rocks splitting, and the bodies of many holy people rising from the dead.
The entire scene is out of the norm. It calls our attention to a history changing event–the history changing event.
And as Jesus gives up his spirit, the centurion declares the innocence and righteousness of Jesus who has just been murdered by the Roman state. An innocent man was executed for daring to claim (even to have claimed about him) the title of King and Lord.
And the disciples and other followers of Jesus watch as their friend, mentor, leader, teacher, and Lord is killed.
It is a dark scene. It is the kind of scene that, when we stumble across it, we have to wonder just exactly what is God doing? What is the plan here, God? How could something so dark be so central to our story? And so we rush to the resurrection, as we rightly should continue on toward. Because the resurrection reminds us that the story isn’t over yet. While Death thinks it has the final word, God has one more to speak: Life. And so, we should and we ought to continue on to the resurrection.
But maybe, just maybe, we should remind ourselves of the cross too. We should allow ourselves more time at the cross. Because there are powerful lessons to be learned here too. After all, Jesus bids us all to come, pick up our cross, and to give up our lives just as he did.
It is at the cross that we are reminded and taught the lesson of sacrifice. The cost of forgiveness. And selflessness. And these are such important lessons for us that we cannot afford to skip over them. We cannot afford to rush to the triumphal scene when the stone is rolled away and when Jesus is found to be alive again at the cost of not learning about sacrifice, forgiveness, and selflessness. These are necessary for the life of faith in Jesus.
And so, this week, I urge you to allow the cross to speak its full message to you. Don’t rush past it to the scene of the empty grave. Remember that cross that we often wear as jewelry. Remember the darkness of that day. And remember that even in the darkest of times and places, that is exactly where God walks.