Christianity 201

April 17, 2017

The Reality Check of the Cross

It’s Monday and we have a bonus item for you by regular Thursday contributor Clarke Dixon. These notes are from a message that I got hear in person which was preached three times on Good Friday morning.

by Clarke Dixon

“This teaching of the cross is nuts, pure and simple.” Such is how you could translate Paul’s words in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth in chapter 1, verse 18. Later, in verse 23 he calls it a “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” We can imagine how a conversation would go between a Christ follower and a Jew in New Testament times:

Christian: Good News! The Messiah has come. God has put into place His great rescue!

Jew: Oh? Tell me more!

Christian: His name is Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem, taught with great authority, worked miracles, and was crucified . .

Jew: Hold up! Crucified, as in executed by the Romans? As in dead at the hands of our enemies? Umm, you need a reality check – your so called Messiah is a failure!

In days when the Jewish people were looking for a rescue from the Romans, being executed by them was a sure way to be deleted from the list of potential rescuers.

We can also imagine how a conversations would go between a Christ follower and a non-Jewish person in New Testament times:

Christian: Good News! God, the creator of everything has revealed Himself to us!

Gentile: Oh? Tell me more!

Christian: His name is Jesus. He was born a Jew in Bethlehem, taught with great authority, worked miracles, and was crucified . . .

Gentile: Hold up! Crucified? As in the God of the universe was executed by the Romans? I knew our Roman soldiers were good, but I didn’t know they were that good! You need a reality check. Your so-called God is a failure.

Two millennia later and reactions are often much the same. Consider these lyrics from the metal band Metallica:

Trust you gave
A child to save
Left you cold and him in grave . . .
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by deepened nail
Follow the god that failed . . .

There is a clear message to Christians here. You need a reality check – a God that dies is a God that fails, and that just doesn’t make sense.

On Good Friday Christians around the world gather to commemorate the death of Jesus. On Good Friday many more people don’t bother, thinking that doing such would be a waste of time. “A good and influential teacher? Sure. Inspirational even. But God Himself dying a death that has anything to do with anything? Nah, that doesn’t make sense.” Many people would say that Christians need a reality check. Christ crucified is nonsense and Christians are deluded.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing . . . 1st Corinthians 1:18

Christ crucified is indeed a reality check, but not in the way that many people assume. Christ crucified is a reality check in the way that a blood test ordered by the doctor is a reality check. When the results come in the doctor never asks “what would you like the results to be?” or “what do you think the results should be?” The doctor says “here is what the results are.” Truth in such things as our health is not a matter of our imagination, but a process of discovery.

People often think that when it comes to spirituality truth is a matter of our imagination, what we like, or what we think it should be. Spirituality is seen as something you can make up or change. However truth itself is not something you can tamper with. We may decide how we express spirituality, but we do not get to decide matters of truth. What people fail to understand is that when it comes to God and our relationship with God, we are talking about matters of truth and not personal preference.

In matters of truth we can do a reality check. Like the doctor, we can check the blood. So let us do that.

Check the blood. The blood spilled through racism. The blood spilled through violence. The blood spilled through war, whether gang wars, drug wars, or world wars. The blood spilled between enemies. The blood spilled between brothers. The blood spilled when an innocent man was nailed to a cross on bogus charges. Check the blood, sin is real and a real problem.

People don’t like the idea of sin being a reality. But not liking it does not mean you can wish it away… You do not get to decide that kind of reality. The cross of Jesus Christ is a big arrow on the map pointing to sin saying “you are here.”

Check the blood spilled at the cross. At the cross we sank to our lowest low in our rebellion against God. We were there, at the cross. Would we have done any different than Pilate, or Herod, or the chief priests, or the disciples, or Peter? As the Bible says “There is no one righteous, no not one.” Think of it; it is really bad when an innocent person suffers. But when God Himself comes to us, and though being innocent, we condemn him to death. Can we sink any lower? If there was ever a moment, that God would lash out and destroy humanity, this is it, at the cross where collectively we sunk to our lowest low. He would have been perfectly just in sending 10,000 angels to destroy the world and not endure the shame and suffering of the cross.

The Jews thought that in being crucified, Jesus failed at being the Messiah, the Greeks thought that in being crucified, Jesus failed at being God, people today think that in being crucified Jesus failed at doing anything relevant – but if God can be spoken of as failing at anything when Jesus was crucified – God failed to treat us as our sins deserve. (Psalm 103:10)

Check the blood spilled at the cross. It is a reality check: God’s love is real. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves:

For in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19-20

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Romans 8:31-34

Crucifixion was not a failure for Jesus. Rather, as Paul puts it, “Christ the power and wisdom of God.” (1st Corinthians 1:24)

  • In Christ crucified God’s perfect justice was expressed with judgement against sin. Yet humanity was not wiped out. God’s perfect mercy was also expressed. That is the power and wisdom of God.
  • In Christ crucified, we were at our lowest low in our rebellion against God. Yet Jesus at the cross made possible God’s invitation to be reconciled. That is the power and wisdom of God.
  • In Christ crucified, the powers of evil were working overtime to destroy and bury the work of God, and as Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb, it certainly seems like they’ve won. But Sunday’s coming! That is the power and wisdom of God.
  • In Christ crucified the curtain of the temple separating out the most holy place was torn in two from top to bottom. This was symbolic of God in effect saying, you can not and will not come to me through religion. I am coming to you by the cross. That is the power and wisdom of God.

Check the blood for a reality check.  Crucifixion is not a sign of failure, it is a sign of God’s success in expressing His perfect love, in all His holiness, justice, grace, and mercy. In that way, Jesus is the only way. Every other possibility put forward as a means of dealing with our sin problem is a failure.

We are no strangers to checking blood. Having a Type 1 diabetic in our family, we are used to a reality check with every finger poke. The glucose meter does not care what we want the blood sugar to be, nor what we think it should be. It tells us what it is. And based on what it is, we need to make a decision. Give insulin, sugar, or do nothing. The cross is the ultimate reality check. Check the blood. Sin is real, and a real problem for our relationship with God. God’s love is real, and a real solution to our sin problem. What decision do you need to make? Perhaps your walk with the Lord is solid and flourishing. Then your decision may be to rejoice in your salvation today. Perhaps you know the Lord, but have not been walking close. Your decision may be to reaffirm your commitment to walking in Christ, walking according to God’s Spirit.

But perhaps you are not a believer at this time? Then Christ crucified is a reality check in one more way: Check the blood spilled at the cross. This is an event in history. Christianity is not a religious philosophy or a set of rules for life. Christianity is about God revealing Himself to humanity over many occasions, but supremely though Jesus. His death was an event in history, as was his resurrection. Christianity did not have its beginnings, as many religions do, in a man teaching certain things about God and then trying to persuade people his ideas are correct. Christianity had its beginnings in the historical event of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. Check the blood. Yes, this really happened.

  • Look into it, and investigate it.
  • Look into like journalist Lee Strobel who as an atheist came to trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour having investigated it with all his journalistic skills.
  • Look into it, like J. Warner Wallace, who as an atheist came to trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour having investigated it with his skills as a cold case detective.
  • Look into it, like C.S. Lewis who described himself as the most reluctant convert in all of England, but who came to trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord having investigated it with all his intellectual skills.

And there are many stories like these. I hope your story will be similar. Do not become a Christian because you think it might be a good religion to practice. Trust in Jesus because Jesus died and rose again. Reality check. The events of Easter really did happen. Check the blood. You have a decision to make.

(All Scripture references are taken from NRSV)

Connect with Clarke at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

March 26, 2016

Jesus Aims Directly Toward Jerusalem

When the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.
~Luke 9:51

Matthew Henry writes:

1. There was a time fixed for the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus, and he knew well enough when it was, and had a clear and certain foresight of it, and yet was so far from keeping out of the way that then he appeared most publicly of all, and was most busy, knowing that his time was short.

2. When he saw his death and sufferings approaching, he looked through them and beyond them, to the glory that should follow; he looked upon it as the time when he should be received upinto glory (1 Tim. 3:16), received up into the highest heavens, to be enthroned there. Moses and Elias spoke of his death as his departure out of this world, which made it not formidable; but he went further, and looked upon it as his translation to a better world, which made it very desirable. All good Christians may frame to themselves the same notion of death, and may call it their being received up, to be with Christ where he is; and, when the time of their being received up is at hand, let them lift up their heads, knowing that their redemption draws nigh.

3. On this prospect of the joy set before him, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem the place where he was to suffer and die. He was fully determined to go, and would not be dissuaded; he went directly to Jerusalem, because there now his business lay, and he did not go about to other towns, or fetch a compass, which if he had done, as commonly he did, he might have avoided going through Samaria. He went cheerfully and courageously there, though he knew the things that should happen to him there. He did not fail nor was discouraged, but set his face as a flint, knowing that he should be not only justified, but glorified (Isa. 50:7), not only not run down, but received up. How should this shame us for, and shame us out of, our backwardness to do and suffer for Christ! We draw back, and turn our faces another way from his service who steadfastly set his face against all opposition, to go through with the work of our salvation.

This reminded me of another passage:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:2

Again, Matthew Henry writes:

What it was that supported the human soul of Christ under these unparalleled sufferings; and that was the joy that was set before him. He had something in view under all his sufferings, which was pleasant to him; he rejoiced to see that by his sufferings he should make satisfaction to the injured justice of God and give security to his honor and government, that he should make peace between God and man, that he should seal the covenant of grace and be the Mediator of it, that he should open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners, and that he should effectually save all those whom the Father had given him, and himself be the first-born among many brethren. This was the joy that was set before him.

While there are so many theological depths in this idea of Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem, I have often found on a very practical level that this concept — and that exact phrase — has helped me when I must face an unpleasant situation.


If you’d like to go deeper today, there is much exposition and application in this 1985 article by Ray Stedman; check out He Endured The Cross.


 

 

September 30, 2015

Paid in Full

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Allan Connor is a retired missionary who has also authored two books and produces a series of devotional studies under the title Trail Mix. Allan is part of Clarke Dixon’s church; Clarke returns next week.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 26:36-29 and Luke 22:39-44

tetelastaiPaid In Full

Jesus and his eleven disciples emerged from a house in Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley to the east and entered a garden on the thickly wooded slopes of a long limestone ridge named the Mount of Olives. This walled enclosure was called “Gethsemane” from the Aramaic word meaning “oil press.” It was about to become a place of great crushing.

The Master took three of his intimate friends and moved off a short distance from the rest. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he confided in them. “Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther he knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel came to his help, strengthening him. But he prayed more earnestly, in great anguish, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

What is happening here? Why this convulsive struggle? What is the cup? Jesus knew he would soon die on a cross but even death by crucifixion could not create such torment of soul. Here is the strong and mighty Son of God in an astonishing state of overwhelming agony!

Jesus, the sinless Savior, is about to die on the cross, taking on himself the world’s sin, breaking his oneness with the Father, facing the blackness of hell, drinking the cup of God’s wrath. “And his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Christ is being crushed beyond endurance in Gethsemane’s press; he will drink the cup until not a drop remains.

Next morning Roman soldiers fasten him to a crude wooden cross, the fiendish instrument of torture used by the Romans to punish and execute slaves and the worst type of criminals. At noon darkness descends over the land for three hours. Then Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone runs to get him a drink. Then his last words, “It is finished.” He bows his head and gives up his Spirit.

“It is finished.” Three English words are used here to translate a single Greek word, “tetelastai,” a word written across tax receipts of the time that meant, “Paid in Full.” Through his shed blood Jesus has become the supreme sacrifice required to pay our debt completely, to grant us full and complete salvation.

If Christ was willing to endure the horror of Gethsemane, the physical pain of crucifixion and the unthinkable separation from the Father as he bore my sin on the cross, there is a message here that I must breathe into my soul: God is the great Lover. As such he has an urgent need to be loved in return; that need requires our response.

John the apostle, one of the three disciples Jesus drew aside in the garden, put it this way: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16, TM).

So I take my stand: I will endeavor, with the help of his Holy Spirit, to love the Lord with all my heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). For that is his desire.

July 10, 2015

Christ Pouring Out His Love on the Cross

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God Proved His Love - Billy Graham

The days and hours leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus are so rich in meaning. There is the drama itself of the story. There are the many, many prophecies being fulfilled. There are the numerous parallels to Passover. There is the theological underpinning of atonement.

It’s so easy to get caught up in all of these and to miss the simplicity of one additional element: There is Jesus, pouring out his love. I was reminded of that reading this article by Cecil, a pastor in New York State, who blogs at L-Squared: Life and Leadership. (You might want to copy/paste this and email it to someone you know.) Click the title below to read this at source.

From “Good” To Great

There on the hilltop once called Golgotha but now forever redeemed as Calvary, hung a perfect, blameless man who was God. There, let us zoom our focus in on that person, Jesus, who was being sacrificed instead of you or me. He was paying the wages of our sins, which was death. With that payment, we received our salvation, freedom, healing, and life here on earth and for eternity in heaven.

When we see Jesus on the cross, we must see mercy, wrath, justice, forgiveness, commitment, obedience, courage, power, humility, faith, hope, and the greatest of all, LOVE.

LOVE THAT BEARS ALL

His love for you covers a multitude of sins. His love is like a roof on a home. It covers me as a refuge to run to and find shelter.

LOVE THAT BELIEVES ALL

His love for you believes there is greatness inside you. His love for you believes for the best in you. His love for you gives you the benefit of the doubt.

LOVE THAT HOPES ALL

His love for you goes a few steps beyond just believing, its called hoping the best for you. God believing in you solely has you in His focus. By hoping, God takes into account the crazy, hopeless situations staring you in the face. In the middle of pain, troubles, temptations, hopelessness, His love for you hopes beyond your realities. He can see the silver lining on that cloud in your life. Jesus has a positive and forward outlook for your life.

LOVE THAT ENDURES ALL

His love for you is unending, unfailing, and unrelenting. His love for you perseveres. He endured the cross because His joy was to see you restored to Him.

In Hebrews 12:2, we read,

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

Let me encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Have a stare-down if you’d like with Him. (I promise, He will probably will make you blink or even tear up first.)

He started a good work on that “Good Friday”. He’s not done with that work in your life even until this moment. His goal and desire is for greatness in your life, for your life, and through your life. Allow me to lead you or just point you to the cross and introduce you to Jesus.

Only He, with the greatest love of all, can take you FROM GOOD TO GREAT!

April 24, 2014

So What is Our Response to the Easter Story?

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John 14 (The Voice)

Philip: Lord, all I am asking is that You show us the Father.

Jesus (to Philip): I have lived with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. How can you keep asking to see the Father? 10 Don’t you believe Me when I say I abide in the Father and the Father dwells in Me? I’m not making this up as I go along. The Father has given Me these truths that I have been speaking to you, and He empowers all My actions. 11 Accept these truths: I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. If you have trouble believing based on My words, believe because of the things I have done. 12 I tell you the truth: whoever believes in Me will be able to do what I have done, but they will do even greater things, because I will return to be with the Father. 13 Whatever you ask for in My name, I will do it so that the Father will get glory from the Son.

Everyone we meet, and we ourselves, needs to respond to the story that crossed our path last week: The Passion Week narrative.  I love the way this song asks the question — it’s one of the most powerful songs I’ve come across — and I was surprised to discover the song has never been featured here.  This appeared many years ago at Thinking Out Loud…

As any worship leader will tell you, Easter offers us music which best captures the essence of our faith; best captures the essence of the gospel. All worship should be ‘Christo-centric,’ but at this time of year the intensity of our worship seems so much focused.

One of my personal favorite pieces this time of year is not a congregational song, but a performance piece called “How Could You Say ‘No?'” written by Mickey Cates and performed by Julie Miller. When my wife had a soundtrack for this, we were repeatedly asked to do it each year at the church we were attending; later on we did it with live music.

christoncross

The song asks the question: How can you see what Christ did for us on the cross and then just walk away, knowing it was your sin that put him there; knowing that he did this for you?

Take the next four minutes just to focus on this song and all that it means.

Thorns on His head, spear in His side
Yet it was a heartache that made Him cry
He gave His life so you would understand
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

If Christ Himself were standing here
Face full of glory and eyes full tears
And he held out His arms and His nail-printed hands
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

How could you look in His tear-stained eyes
Knowing it’s you He’s thinking of?
Could you tell Him you’re not ready to give Him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need His love?

Jesus is here with His arms open wide
You can see with your heart
If you’ll stop looking with your eyes
He’s left it up to you, He’s done all He can
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

How could you look in His tear-stained eyes
Knowing it’s you He’s thinking of?
Could you tell Him you’re not ready to give Him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need His love?

Thorns on His head, your life is in His hands
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

Oh, is there any way you could say no to this Man?

May 13, 2013

The Horror of the Cross

Periodically we have different writers who come at this in various ways, and we hear some of this preached at Easter; however I don’t think we can ever contemplate the cost of the atonement too often. It’s interesting that some cloistered monks attend mass every morning but Evangelicals get nervous if you repeat a devotional on the crucifixion two days in a row.

After scheduling this, I noticed that this isn’t the first time we’ve featured the writing of Jeremy Myers here, but it’s almost exactly a year to the date we ran his piece on Following Jesus. You’re encouraged to read this post at source, where it ran at the blog Till He Comes under the title Jesus Became Sin For Us.

2 Corinthians 5:21 New International Version (NIV)

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 may be the most horrifying verse in Scripture, for it reveals the fact that Jesus, who was holy, righteous, and perfectly sinless, became sin for us. God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us.

The Horror of the Cross

Can you imagine the horror, the shame, and the guilt that poured upon Jesus while He hung upon the cross?

We, who are born in sin and who are accustomed to sin’s constant presence within us, still feel shame and guilt when we sin. Imagine then how it would feel for God in the flesh, who is perfectly holy and righteous, and for whom sin is the exact antithesis and opposite of everything about His being, to not just take on a few sins, but to actually become sin for the entire world? It is shocking and horrifying to think about.

The Love of the Cross

But it is also incredibly loving, for God, who alone knows the full ramifications and consequences of sin, knew that only in this way could He have the relationship and fellowship with us that He so desires. Only by taking sin upon Himself could He finally, ultimately, and completely defeat sin, death, and the devil. So He did it.

Jesus became sin for us and gave us His righteousness.

Jesus accepted our sin into Himself.

He breathed it in, soaked it up, and allowed it to consume Him from within.

Why? Because He loves us, and He knows that if He does not become sin for us, if He does not let sin consume Him, it will destroy and consume us.

Jesus Became Sin

The truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is for every single person who has ever lived and who will ever live. It is for every single person who has drawn breath. It is for every single sin that has ever been committed and ever will be. Jesus draws them all into Himself and becomes sin for us!

On the cross, Jesus is both the most beautiful thing the world has ever seen, and the most loathsome. Jesus is the most righteous and the most sinful. The cross of Jesus is full of love and horror.

Love, because of what Jesus did, but horror, because of what Jesus became: He became sin. This is the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21. Jesus became sin for us. God made Him to be sin. Jesus was despised, rejected, and loathed (Isa 53:2-6). People looked upon Him with revulsion. Even God rejected Him (Matt 27:46).

God Became Sin

All of this helps us understand exactly what was going on in the violent portrayals of God in the Old Testament. If it is on the cross that Jesus most fully reveals God, and it is on the cross that Jesus became sin for the world, then this means that God also was becoming sin for the world.

Just as Jesus became repulsive on the cross by taking on the sin of the world, the proper response to reading about the violence of God in the Old Testament is to be repulsed. We are repulsed by the violence of God in the Old Testament because we are supposed to be repulsed. The violence of God in the Old Testament is God taking on the sin of Israel.

This is a challenge thought, I know, so let us approach it from another perspective, from the perspective of God Himself. To do this, we must remember everything we have seen in this series so far (see the list of posts below).

We must remember that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. It records exactly what God wanted recorded. We must remember that when we read about God in the Old Testament, we read Jesus back into those passages, rather than read those depictions of God forward onto Jesus. We must remember that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work, and that the primary way Jesus did all this is by taking all the devil’s work into Himself upon the cross by becoming the sin of the world.

God inspired the Old Testament authors to write about Him in a violent way so that He could do the same thing for Israel that Jesus did on the cross: Just as Jesus became sin for us, God became sin for Israel.

May 1, 2013

Jesus Answer Knocks Them Off Their Feet

 

“…they drew back and fell to the ground.” ~John 18:6

The quotation above is from John’s account of Jesus’ arrest. Judas leads a group of soldiers and Pharisees to a grove of olives and Jesus steps out from his group and asks who they are seeking. They said, “Jesus of Nazareth;” and he answered, “I am he.” And then John tells us that at the words, ‘I am he;’ they fell to the ground. I’ve quoted the NIV (or ESV) above; The Message version adds a different dimension, “He said, “That’s me.” The soldiers recoiled, totally taken aback. Judas, his betrayer, stood out like a sore thumb.”

This detail about the soldiers is singular to John’s gospel. (He doesn’t mention the betrayal with a kiss at all.) I’ve often wondered what caused this particular reaction.

  • The Life Application Bible suggests that they were startled by the boldness of his question
  • The Wycliffe Bible Commentary suggests he unnerved his captors, some of whom may have been the ones previously unable to lay hands on him (John 7:43-46);
  • Though the Pharisees had seen Jesus teaching in the temple, it’s possible the soldiers had never seen him up close and personal. As they came into proximity with him he was either not what they expected, or they sensed something “wholly other” about him. (Matthew Henry adds that the term ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ was used derisively, and that Jesus could have simply answered “No” for technically he was ‘Jesus of Bethlehem.’)
  • The Life App. and various other commentaries tell us that his “I am he” answer used the “I AM” form of God’s name; it indicated his claim of divinity. There are many pivotal turning points in John’s text, but this is one where we often miss the full impact;
  • The above, combined with what they where about to do; they suddenly felt the impact of their own actions. Were they arresting an innocent man? Were they arresting God?
  • If the full force of his answer registered at all; Matthew Henry points out they would realize that he could simply strike them dead at that point. Was there any limit to his potential response?

Without taking away from any of these explanations, I want to introduce a new dimension to the narrative that had never struck me before in this context. I picked this up reading Michael Card writing in an older issue of the Our Journey devotional booklet.

“When Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, He was already bloody before anyone laid a hand on him. He had been fighting a battle that would make certain the final outcome on Calvary. The blood and water that flowed from his wounds on the cross were preceded by bloody sweat that poured from His pores as He suffered the agony of a death more painful than the physical death of the cross, the death of the will... The painful crushing began appropriately enough, in the garden…” ~ Michael Card (Italics added)

What do you do if you are the soldiers, sent to arrest someone, who looks more like a victim than a criminal? What do you do if the plan calls for flogging or torture and the person seems to be already spent? Could that be part of what caused them to draw back and fall to the ground?

April 4, 2013

He Endured The Cross

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Hebrews 12:1a-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Brooksyne Weber noted at Daily Encouragement, “…the many things Jesus gave up or endured on His earthly journey that would conclude at the cross…” (This is paraphrased, click the link to read the original at the bottom of their page.)

  • He gave up His glory in heaven.
  • He gave up His royal privileges.
  • He was subjected to Satan’s temptuous ways.
  • His incorruptible body was subjected to physical death.
  • He was numbered with transgressors while the guilty was freed.
  • He was abandoned by those closest to Him.
  • He chose silence when false accusations were hurled at Him.
  • He was subjected to betrayal and physical cruelty by those He came to save.
  • He sought us out even when we were indifferent to all He has done for us.
  • He bore all our sin to satisfy what the law demanded.

This reminded me of the words of a popular Christmas (!) song Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary

Many Gospel Music artists — and Elvis Presley — recorded the song, If That Isn’t Love which echoes this idea:

He left the splendor of heaven
Knowing His destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgotha
There to lay down His life for me

And if that isn’t love
Then the ocean is dry
There’s no stars in the sky
And the little sparrows can’t fly
Yeah if that isn’t love
Then heaven’s a myth
There’s no feeling like this
If that isn’t love

Even in death He remembered
The thief hanging by His side
Then he spoke of love and compassion
And He took him to paradise

And if that isn’t love…

More recently, we have the song The Servant King which is also sung at both Christmas and Easter.  We’ve covered that song and included a video here at C201.

Hopefully today’s devotional thoughts from Christian song lyrics has guided you to consider the breadth and width of the sacrifice we remembered at Easter.

June 19, 2012

Now Versus Then

This appeared earlier this week at the blog at Blue Letter Bible, an online Bible search engine, where it was titled, As-He-Is vs. As-He-Was.

  1. As He is. He is walking in majesty in the midst of the Churches. “…who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1).
    As He was. He was seen in humiliation, and in the midst of two thieves, crucified. “There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them” (John 19:18).
  2. As He is. He is seen in garments of glory, representing the glory of His person. …clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Revelation 1:13).
    As He was. He was stripped of His garments, and made a spectacle to men, demons, and angels. “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts” (John 19:23).
  3. As He is. His eyes are as flames of fire―reminding us of His all-seeingness. “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14).
    As He was. Those eyes lost their brightness in death, and closed under the load of sin. “…and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
  4. As He is. His feet are as burning and polished brass―telling us of His durability and deity. “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. Those feet were nailed to the Cross. “See my hands and my feet…” (Luke 24:39).
  5. As He is. His voice is as the sound of many waters, reminding us of the power of His word. “his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. His voice was hushed in death. “…they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead…” (John 19:33).
  6. As He is. His hand is mighty to hold, and to help us. “In his right hand he held seven stars” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. Those hands were pierced, and nailed to the accursed tree. “…they have pierced my hands and fee…” (Psalm 22:16).
  7. As He is. Out of His mouth, goes a sharp two-edged sword―telling us of His power to destroy His enemies. “…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. He opened not His mouth, but was smitten by the officer over the mouth. “…so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
  8. As He is. His face is as the sun shining in his strength. “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. That face was marred, spit on, the hair plucked from, and the rude hand of man insulted. “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” (Isaiah52:14).

October 13, 2011

The Last 14 Hours of Christ’s Earthly Mission

Structured somewhat like an episode of the television series 24, Dawson McAllister’s 2009 book A Walk With Christ to the Cross: The Last Fourteen Hours of His Earthly Mission, is probably one of the more explicit books I’ve seen in terms of Christ’s suffering.

I picked up this book and not-so-randomly jumped to chapter three, which deals with Jesus in Gethsemane.  I’ve read some rather detailed descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion — I think Chuck Swindoll has a book that is exceptionally clear on this — but considering that I was reading a chapter consisting of 90-minute window before Jesus was even arrested, nothing at all prepared me for what I read. 

The chapter is based on a combination — or harmonization — of all the gospel accounts.  I’d hoped to find some text from the book online, but since that wasn’t an option, and since it’s hard to excerpt bits of this chapter without missing the impact of the whole, I’ll just note a few things in bullet points:

  • His friends didn’t understand His pain
  • …and they were soon to abandon Him.
  • The severity of what He was about to face could mean that physically, He was going in to shock.
  • Jesus began to be sorrowful; emotions absolutely shot.
  • Jesus became deeply distressed; He began to shudder; some believe this was to the point of a mild heart attack.
  • He pressed His face to the ground and prayed, basically, “Abba Father! Is there another way?”
  • He asked himself: Could He do it? Was it right to take all our sin on Him at once? Could he bear the utter hell of being forsaken by The Father?  Was humankind worth the suffering?
  • Nonetheless, He had to make a yes or no decision. 
  • He sweat drops of blood: Hematidrosis is the technical name for this condition; blood passing through the veins into the sweat glands.
  • He would want to do The Father’s will, but His whole system would be shouting, “NO!”
  • All these things considered, He might have died right there, but The Father sent an angel to comfort him; in some way the angel ministered to Jesus; the almighty creator of everything being comforted by a created being.

[…I have no words at this point…]

What we learn from Jesus’ time in the garden:

  • Humility.  If we’d walked by that garden and looked over the wall, we wouldn’t have said, “Oh, I get it…God in human form!  That must be God in the flesh.”  …Our first reaction would have been, “Who is this peasant Jew having a nervous breakdown?”
  • Sin is no small thing to Jesus.  What troubled Him deeply even to the point of death?  What was it He saw in the garden?  Answer: He saw sin in all its fury. 
  • Jesus considered us worth the suffering.  Hebrews 12:2 “…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Items in all bullet points are edited quotations from the book.

September 3, 2011

Can You Say, ‘Theopaschitism?’

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:12 pm
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The definition at Free Online Dictionary is:

Theopaschitism

a 6th-century heretical doctrine maintaining that Christ had only one nature, the divine, and that this nature suffered at the Crucifixion. — Theopaschite, n.

In other words, the idea that God the Father suffered along with the incarnate Christ.  Can God suffer at all?  We can grieve the Holy Spirit, but perhaps that’s different. This belief is also sometimes referred to as Theopaschism, which Wikipedia suggests raises “questions like ‘was the crucifixion of Jesus a crucifixion of God?‘”.

Episcopal priest Evan Garner blogs at A Long Way From Home and writes:

Avoiding Heresies – Theopaschitism

…Theopaschitism, is my all-time favorite heresy — to combat. I think that’s because it’s the most prevalent heresy in contemporary Christianity–so much so that, according to Michael Ward, it’s been labelled “the new orthodoxy.” Parts of this week’s discussion stem from Ward’s sermon in the book Heresies and How to Avoid Them, of which he is an editor. That’s been the general guide for this series, and I rely particularly heavily on it this week. That’s because Ward does as good a job as anyone I’ve ever read at describing why a strong, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity eliminates the need for contemporary Christians to hind behind theopaschitism–a cop-out of the more difficult but more powerful belief in God’s impassibility. More on that below…

First, orthodoxy. Since it’s earliest days, the Church (note the capital “C”) has taught that God is impassible–not able to suffer or experience emotion. As Ward describes it, “God can’t be changed from without…and can’t change himself from within, specifically…from a better to a worse state, that change we call suffering.” As you will recall from our discussion of the first four heresies, this one of those core beliefs that often led heretics into trouble. For example, the Arians erroneously thought, “If God is impassible, how can he die on the cross? Jesus must not be of the same substance as God.” Yet we have concluded that Jesus is indeed identical with the second person of the Trinity, of the same substance and nature as God the Father, and so is also impassible–at least in his divine nature. But Jesus is also fully human, which means he can suffer in his human nature. But is that good enough?

As Ward lays out theopaschitism and its three-fold attack on orthodoxy, he outlines how philosophy, scripture, and experience all suggest that God might indeed be capable of suffering with us–that the divine suffers both as Jesus dies on the cross and, more generally, in response to the sufferings of the created order. For a detailed discussion of that three-pronged attack, please see the PowerPoint slide show below or Ward’s chapter in Heresies and How to Avoid Them. One particular area of concern, however, is worth addressing here.

In response to the horrors of WWI and WWII (and partly in response to Einstein’s work in general relativity and the philosophical developments that accompanied it), modern theologians began to assert more and more strongly that God does indeed suffer in his divine nature. The unanswerable question they propose in support of their claim is haunting in its interrogation: “How can God watch 8 million of his people die at the hands of the Nazi’s and not suffer with them?” Jürgen Moltmann, whom Ward quotes, held that “Any other answer would be blasphemy.” And one can see why that would be the case. (Even if it is heresy.)

Although Ward does an excellent job of discussing the role of the Trinity in redeeming orthodoxy (see below), he doesn’t explain thoroughly why theopaschitism, “the new orthodoxy,” leaves us wanting. Essentially, it comes down to this: If God can suffer (become subject to the created order), how can he redeem us from our suffering? If we’re counting on God to save us from our pain and suffering in any real way–which is to say in some capacity other than simply enduring our pain with us–God cannot also be subject to the same suffering we endure–at least not as God. If we are to enter an existence (heaven, paradise, etc.) where suffering is no more, then we must be certain that God is not subject to the pains of the world. Otherwise, all he can promise us is eternity spent in redemptive pain, which is no paradise at all.

Where is God’s love for us, who suffer so greatly, if he is unable to feel our pain? As Ward expertly describes, it is in nature as love. God doesn’t simply love us. God is love (1 John 4). He subsists as three persons (Trinity) eternally complete and perfect in love. God is relationship–a relationship of love. God’s eternal and unchanging nature is love, which means that, even though God cannot suffer in his divine nature as we suffer in our human nature, his love for us is still assured. His love is not responsive to us–he doesn’t love us more when we are good or less when we are bad. His love is always complete and perfect. In fact, as that last point suggests, if God were able to suffer, he would not be complete in his love. He would become subject to the creation–able to be influenced by us and our actions. If he suffered when innocent victims suffer, then he must withdraw a degree of his love from the perpetrator of such suffering. And that is not God. That is not love.

Jesus, as God incarnate, shows us a different sort of suffering–not divine suffering as divine, but divine suffering as human. As God united his divine nature to the human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, God invited onto himself suffering as human. Jesus suffered in his human nature. God suffered like us–as a human suffers because of the incarnation. That’s a radical thing to say–and it comes very close to ridiculousness (heresy), but that’s the boldness of our faith. God became human. God suffered as a human. As Ward points out, it makes no sense to us for God to suffer as God. What good would that be anyway? We need to look at a savior who suffers in the same way we do, not artificially.

There’s a lot more to it, and I imagine it’s easy for one to say “God doesn’t suffer” when one hasn’t experienced much suffering…

There are very limited references to this doctrine — by either name — when doing a Google blog search, but it is interesting to see where it does come up.  What do you think?

August 24, 2011

The Cross Identifies With 9/11

Something rather different today, but worthy of much consideration. This item by Ryan Halliday appeared as a web-only piece at Christianity Today under the title 9/11 Cross Should Offend

In a recent debate surrounding a cross displayed at the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial site, both sides agree on at least one point: the complaints by atheist litigants that the presence of the cross has caused them to suffer “dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish” are less than credible. Even the commentators who have argued against the inclusion of the cross in the 9/11 memorial have nevertheless ridiculed these purported symptoms, assuming they are nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt at establishing legal standing.

But Christians should recognize that these seem to be the sort of symptoms many sane and thoughtful persons experience upon encountering an unwanted vision of the cross. Far from being silly, these four atheists seem to take the cross more seriously than many believers do.

Because the cross tells the world’s strangest story in an image, it has always provoked a variety of responses, most of which have been negative. In the first century, the idea that the crucified Jesus was God-in-the-flesh was considered, depending on one’s background, either a scandal or a joke. (As the Jewish-turned Christian theologian St. Paul put it, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”) A weak, suffering deity held little appeal and would have been easily dismissed, were it not for the early Christians’ insistence that the death of Christ was everyone’s problem.

Jesus’ first followers did not only assert that God came to earth and died, but also that culpability for his death was universal. “This Jesus, whom you crucified,” were the words chosen by St. Peter to conclude the first Christian sermon, directed to an ethnically diverse crowd, most of whom were not even present in Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’ death.

For the two millennia since Jesus’ resurrection, Christian orthodoxy has been consistent in repeating this same message: the whole world stands equally guilty of committing history’s greatest atrocity, an atrocity in light of which the events of 9/11 pale in comparison. God came to earth, and we killed him.

The Book of Acts records that upon hearing this indictment for the first time, many of Peter’s listeners were “cut to the heart.” Understandably so—the charge is enough to turn the stomach, darken the mind, and plunge the heart into despair. Or, in other words, Peter’s words were enough to cause “dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish.” The atheist litigants have called the 9/11 cross “an ugly piece of wreckage,” arguing that it speaks of “horror and death.” On the basis of the New Testament, these statements are difficult to contradict.

But if the image of the cross represents humanity’s greatest collective failure, why would a nation cling to it as a sign of hope in the days after 9/11? The exchange that follows Peter’s sermon sheds some further light.

When asked to suggest a course of action, Peter advised his hearers, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”—advice which makes little sense unless one assumes certain premises. These premises, implicit in the Christian religion from day one, were intricately explored over the next several decades in the writings of St. Paul, who advanced what would become the best-known but least-understood tenet of Christian theology: that somehow the death of the perfectly sinless Christ was itself the event which atoned for all the wrongdoing of the sinful human race.

If true, this turns the cross into a profound paradox. The same event that condemns humanity also justifies it, standing at once as damning evidence of guilt and a doorway to forgiveness and innocence. What’s more, the very episode that shows humanity at its worst shows God at his best, as he transforms an act of wickedness into a display of mercy and love. It is difficult to imagine themes more relevant to the attacks of September 11.

Suppose God himself has suffered and died at the hands of evil men. Suppose God himself has shown the capacity for taking what was intended for harm and using it for good. Might this affect the way we ourselves face evil and suffering? Might this be a source of strength to someone who is waist-deep in ash and rubble, trying to loosen bodies from steel and concrete?

For the person who accepts this narrative, the cross is the only thing that makes sense in the face of a senseless tragedy. But for the person who rejects it, the cross serves as a reminder of an offensive and seemingly absurd accusation, adding insult to injury. The trouble with the cross is that it refuses to be the universal symbol of beauty that some would make it out to be—it speaks life to those who believe, but death to those who do not.

No wonder people disagree about where it should be displayed.

Ryan Holladay is pastor of Lower Manhattan Community Church, which meets two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

April 21, 2011

Famous Last Words…

The eleven men who were left were very quiet.  The voice of Christ was very soft and low — tender with farewell.

It was now only a matter of hours until Christ and his disciples would be separated.  He wished to fill those last hours of fellowship with the tenderest and most significant of His teachings.

The most sacred… the most tender… the most heart-felt emotions… are those expressed at the end of the letter…

The tenderest caress comes just before the parting.  The softest word just before the conversation is ended… before the train pulls out… before we turn away.

We seem to catch the quiet intimacy of that fellowship.  Unforgettable words of parting and comfort were spoken by Jesus to His friends.  Jesus has written them out for us:

  • “Little children … a new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you … By this will all know that you are my disciples…”
  • “Let not your heart be troubled; … In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you…”
  • “I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you…”
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches…  Abide in me, and I in you…”
  • “these things I have spoken unto you that in me you might have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world…”

Overcome the world?  When the one who spoke was so soon to fall under the power of Caesar?  Yes, for in reality we must remember that Jesus could have escaped the cross.  No one compelled him to go to Jerusalem on that last journey.  Indeed His friends and apostles urged Him not to go.

Watch Him, in the bitter hours that lie immediately ahead, time after time taking the initiative in deciding His own fate.

Christ had begun His ministry by telling His apostles that the Son of many must suffer many things.  Must — there was no other way.  It was for that purpose that He had come into the world.

“For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up .. that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

There was Light in the little room that night.  But beyond the light lay a death-ridden world…

  • in the midst of the military might that was Rome where life was cheap
  • in the philosopher’s porticoes of Athens where the mind found no hope
  • in the dangerous living of the great shipping centers of Asia Minor to the disease infested alleys of old Jerusalem —

Men feared death, dodged its hideous grasp, could nowhere find respite from their fear.

But here was something new… Here was one facing death — not afraid but confident … already triumphant … already speaking about seeing His friends again … about never leaving them…

Strange words … about being with them to the uttermost parts of the earth and to the end of time.

How?  Why? Because He alone knew the Father’s eternal purpose for what it was — the determination once and for all to destroy the power of death — once and for all to deliver men from their lifelong bondage to the fear of death.

Within a matter of hours, Christ Himself was to become the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

~ Peter Marshall –The First Easter (McGraw-Hill, 1959) pp. 16-19

April 20, 2011

He Took The Nails

I only know her as Missy.  She writes a parenting blog, It’s Almost Naptime, that often draws over 1,000 (mostly women) readers in a single day, and I highly recommend it, especially if, like her, your family grew quickly and the kids are still small.   I dropped in this morning only to discover a wonderful illustration in one of her recent posts, Better Me Than You.

[C201 readers are always encouraged to read the post at the author’s website/blog.]


Because I am barefoot 99% of the time, and because we aren’t the neatest house on the block, the incident of stepping on sharp, pointy objects is an all too common occurrence.

I wish I could blame it on the kids, but I’ve never had the neatest house on the block. My floor has always been a bit of a landmine. The soles of my feet are riddled with the scars of my domestic ineptitude.

Recently for some odd reason I was blessed to be wearing shoes when I stepped up the stairs and directly on top of a wayward nail which pierced straight through the sole of my shoe and into my poor foot. As I screamed dramatically, the thought ran through my mind which, for almost seven years, has been repeated every time I have been assaulted by my own home: Glad I got to that first. Better me than one of the kids.

That pretty much sums up the change in our hearts (and pain tolerance) caused by motherhood, doesn’t it? A tack in the foot no longer yields screaming and curses, but gratitude. The same tack could have harmed the sweet soft skin of my precious child. It hurts, but it would have hurt my baby worse. Better me than him.

Soon after Shepherd’s birth, I realized my love was so strong for this child that, not only would I take a bullet for him, but I’d take a bullet for him gladly. With zero hesitation. Now the chances of me being asked to take a bullet for one of my children are thankfully very small. But thumbtacks? Slivers of glass? Runaway carpet nails? A Lego with a vendetta? It’s a repetitive – sometimes daily – sacrifice.

Today I was cleaning the girls’ room. As I slid my hand under Maggie’s bed, my right thumb made direct contact with a pointy piece of glass. A rather large piece of glass, which could have done substantial damage to a small foot. My blood oozed from my body, while, as usual, I expressed gratitude for the opportunity to get to it first. Better me than her.

I stared at the blood stained glass when suddenly, I stifled a sob, and doubled over.

For the image of my bloody Savior hanging on a cross had appeared in my mind.

And He said, Better Me than you.

The Lord, in His wondrous mercy, beat me to the piercing, and the pain, and the blood. It was a sacrifice. Because He loves me even more than I love my own children.

When they tied his arms to a post with his back exposed, and He braced Himself for what was to come, He said, Better Me than you.

When they raised the whip, it’s tendrils tied with pointy pieces of glass and metal and bone, He said, Better Me than you.

When they brought the whip down on His back, with full force, over and over and over and over and over, He said, Better Me than you.

When the skin had been shredded and the arteries and veins in the muscles in His back began to hemorrhage, He said, Better Me than you.

When they dug the crown of thorns into his head, He said, Better Me than you.

When they grabbed His beard in their hands and pulled as hard as they could to rip the hair from His face, He said, Better Me than you.

When they cursed Him and called Him the foulest names they could think of, He said, Better Me than you.

When they slapped and punched His bleeding cheeks, and mocked Him, and spit on Him, and beat Him with a staff until His bloody tortured body was unrecognizable as human, He said, Better Me than you.

When they forced him to lift the seventy five pound crossbeam, lay it across his scourged and lacerated shoulders, and ordered his failing body to walk, He said, Better Me than you.

When the loss of blood and the pain from the tortures caused him to stumble and drop the cross, He said, Better Me than you.

When they stripped off all His clothes and threw His naked, mutilated body down on the cross, hammered thick, heavy, wrought-iron nails into His wrists, then lifted Him into place, He said, Better Me than you.

When they crossed his ankles and hammered similar nails into the arches of his feet, He said, Better Me than you.

When He struggled to breathe, causing Himself excruciating pain no matter how He moved, He said, Better Me than you.

When He looked into the face of a mother, His mother, watching the murder of her precious child, her baby boy, He said, Better Me than you.

When His Father turned His back on Him, when He felt most forsaken, when He cried out in agony and heartache and despair, He said, Better Me than you.

When His chest filled with fluid and He felt His own heart drown within Him, He said, Better Me than you.

When He cried out before He finally suffocated to death, He said, Better Me than you.

When He took on the wrath of God and paid the penalty for your sins, and my sins, and our beloved children’s sins, He said, Better Me than you.

This is love:
not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10

April 18, 2011

Surveying The Wondrous Cross

During this week, I’m reprinting a few posts from a series at Thinking Out Loud that ran under the title “Setting Our Faces Toward Jerusalem,” in anticipation of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Today’s post is from the now-defunct blog Lenae’s Back Porch Musings. Lenae works for a ministry organization and lives in Minnesota. Her March 29th post was a spoken liturgy or worship resource based on the song “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.”

There is a wealth of depth and richness to be found in reading through books containing liturgical readings, not to mention the personal spiritual gains available by writing your own readings for corporate worship.

This is a worship resource that we used in our church this morning. It can be used as an introduction to the hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

christ-on-the-cross

(Organ, piano, or other instrument[s] quietly plays through When I Survey the Wondrous Cross during the reading.)

Song Reader: This morning we will reflect on the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died.

Reader 1: Although the crosses that we often see are handcrafted in beautiful stained wood or inlaid with gold, when we truly survey the wondrous cross it is a bloodstained tool of reconciliation.

Reader 2: Paul writes in Colossians chapter 1, verses 19 and 20, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Song Reader: My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Reader 1: Oh, that we would pour contempt on our pride and humble ourselves like Christ Jesus.

Reader 2: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Beautiful words from Philippians chapter 2, verses 6-8.

Song Reader: Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ, my God!

Reader 1: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God ¬ not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Song Reader: See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.

Reader 2: John Mark surveyed the crucified head, hands, and feet of Jesus and recorded these words in the book of Mark, chapter 15, verses 25-32, It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Song Reader: Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Reader 1: The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns mocking Christ’s claim to royalty. John chapter 19, verses 1-2 reads, Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.

Reader 2: But to God that wondrous cross and crown was a demonstration of His love for us! John 3:16 proclaims this glorious truth: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Song Reader: Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small.

Reader 1: We survey the wondrous cross and wonder what we can give back to God for the blessings He’s poured out on us.

Reader 2: The writer of Psalm 116 poses the same question and gives this response: How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD (Psalm 116:12-13, 17).

Song Reader: Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Reader 1: We must respond to the amazing love demonstrated on the wondrous cross, by being zealous and faithful in our worship and work for King Jesus.

Reader 2: Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

Song Reader: As we survey the wondrous cross during this season of Lent, let’s humbly and wholeheartedly give praise and thanks to King Jesus. Please stand and sing, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, all four verses.

© 2009, Lenae Bulthuis

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The power of this hymn is best reflected in the fact that, as you consider the verses, depending on where you are reading this, three distinct tunes may come to mind, not including the more recent addition of the bridge “Wonderful Cross.”

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