The Message of the Cross (March 1, 2009)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1Corinthians 1:18).

I recently attended a Catholic wedding and found it difficult to concentrate on the ceremony because I couldn’t take my eyes off of the crucifix.  I was a practicing Catholic for the majority of my life yet, the depiction of Jesus on the cross had never made such a powerful impact.  This time, even a beautiful bride could not take my focus off of Jesus and the amazing gift we were given because of God’s ultimate sacrifice.

One of the songs from our Easter musical, “Where the Nails Were,” kept running through my mind, as it truly should have been my hands and feet where the nails were!  The entire impact of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is so incredible that I really don’t have words to describe my emotion, but pardon my indulgence as I try to reflect on three awesome truths from the crucifixion – the love of God, the obedience of Jesus, and immense joy that resulted from Jesus’ resurrection.

“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” (John 3:16).  This is the first verse that the children in the Awana program memorize, and it truly says it all.  How perfect is God’s love that He sent His sinless, blameless Son to die for our sins to be forgiven!  We are completely undeserving of the grace that we have been extended, but the freedom we have been given in Christ is unbelievable.  Jesus’ resurrection shows us that God’s love for us can overcome physical death, something we can also experience when we accept Jesus as our personal savior.

Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will is something we should all strive to emulate.  Jesus “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).  Crucifixion was a painful and humiliating way to die, but Jesus took up His cross and walked the path that should have been ours.  Jesus’ obedience continued even as he uttered His last words “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46b).  In contrast, God asks nothing from me, and yet I still struggle with being obedient.  Thankfully, God’s love overcomes my many shortcomings.

Crucifixion was a common practice in the Roman culture, implying that had Jesus simply died on the cross, His death may have been considered ordinary.  However, it was His resurrection on the 3rd day which made His death extraordinary.  When Mary Magdalene saw firsthand that Jesus was resurrected, her sorrow turned to incredible joy.  She joyfully proclaimed to Jesus’ disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18).  The death of Jesus may be difficult for us to accept, because we may focus on the pain and suffering that He endured.  But, Jesus is risen!  He is alive!  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins are forgiven, and the Holy Spirit lives in those who accept this precious gift.  Praise God!

The crucifixion and resurrection clearly shows God’s love, and Jesus’ obedience, character traits we should strive for in our lives.  We can also focus on the joy that resulted from the risen Jesus.  When Jesus appeared to the disciples for the third time after His resurrection, he instructed Peter three times to “take care of his sheep” (John 21:16c).  This not only shows that Jesus forgave Peter for his three denials, but it also instructs all of us to love others and share the good news with them.  Then, the Holy Spirit can help those who may see the cross as foolish be able to see the immeasurable power of God!

There are two immediate events that I want to encourage you to attend.  First, our Church is showing “The Passion of Christ” on Saturday April 4th at 5pm.  I encourage you to not only participate in this activity, but to invite a friend to join in our celebration of God’s enormous love for us.

Second, on Sunday April 5th at 6pm, the Adult Choir will present the musical “Raise the Crown,” which is a powerful depiction of Jesus’ final days on the Earth, culminating with His resurrection into Heaven.  The arrangement is beautiful and the impact is strong.  Mark your calendar and bring a friend to share in this powerful event.

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