But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. -- Galatians 6:14
Monday, March 30, 2015
The Triumph of the Cross
Holy Week seems a good time to consider the Cross, its meaning and its implications for us. It is central to Christianity, as Paul makes plain here and in many other places. There is the historical cross, a real piece of wood to which Jesus of Nazareth was nailed and upon which He died. The cross has, too, a metaphorical meaning. We are to take up our cross daily, bear our afflictions and troubles as Christians and learn to walk in faith with our eyes upon God’s truth and our hope in Him. The Cross is also a figure of speech for all of the doctrines that make up the gospel as well as for the death of Jesus.
Death by crucifixion was an ignominious, inglorious, humiliating public death. It spoke of the weakness and insignificance of the individual against the power and prestige of the corporate state. To the world, the death of Jesus is a shame, both in the sense of being tragic and in the sense of being a disgrace. We will say of a person who dies “too soon” in some accident that the death is a shame. We feel it was unnecessary, even pointless. The world will say of Jesus that He was a great teacher or a great philosopher, that, like Socrates, He was put to death for the sake of jealousy, envy or religious conflict. It was really too bad.
Jesus does not allow those who believe in and follow Him that option. We have to understand that He came to die: Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour (John 12:27). The Cross is both pit and pinnacle, His darkest hour and His greatest triumph.
The Cross shows us the vanity and futility of the world, putting it to death, crucifying the world to us. We are, in turn, crucified to the world. Our judgment about those things held in high esteem changes. We judge now according to the standard of Christ, considering righteousness and a good conscience superior to worldly ambition, popular acclaim, and material acquisitions.
Like the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness, the Cross is transformed from an image of loathing and fear to an object of hope. It heals and counters the poison that has invaded the soul of man, offering an antidote and the new resurrection life in Christ. We rejoice in the Cross which signifies the defeat and destruction of the enemy of our souls.