Wednesday, March 14, 2018

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34b-35)

“... and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)

Who would knowingly choose a cross if the offer was between a cross and a crown? All pretentions aside, it is more appealing wearing a crown than carrying a cross. It seems a wiser choice to make and is not as onerous. All things considered, when we take a closer look, it is not as easy as it looks wearing a crown—simply because it has a hidden cost element to it. To get to the crown you may have to carry your cross. The two are inextricably intertwined. 

The cross is an instrument of shame and suffering, a humiliating method instituted by the Romans as a way of punishment reserved for hardened criminals. Our Lord Jesus carried His cross publicly for having claimed to be the Son of God, which was considered blasphemy. “... anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:16)

It was for this reason that Jesus, the Only Son of God, came into the world -- to die for the sins of the human race. He was the real Lamb of God sent from heaven in person, who all throughout the Old Testament was slaughtered as a sin-offering --- shadow of things to come. Two thousand years ago, He became that Passover Lamb on the cross of Calvary -- the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. 

Nothing could distract our Lord Jesus from heading to the cross. When He announced the news of His imminent death to His disciples, Peter, the head disciple, immediately pulled Him aside and reprimanded Him. (Mark 8:32) Not even that could serve as a deterrent from the cross. Jesus rebuked Peter “Get behind me Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33b) That our Lord Jesus did not mince His words in rebuking His disciple, shows how much the cross meant to Him.  

The whole purpose of the Lord’s coming to the earth was to perform this assignment as required of Him by His Father, on our behalf. It could neither have been waived, nor postponed. The cross was at the centre of Jesus’ ministry. No cross no crown. He overtly proclaimed this by His actions and His deeds—and nothing could deter or stop Him. His face was set for Jerusalem - certain of what was awaiting Him there. 

The cross represents the power of God. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) For it is after having been lifted up that His glory would be seen. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:13-14) Moses lifted up the bronze serpent on a pole so that all who set their eyes on it, those who were at the point of death, may live.

God had declared in the Law that everything be cleansed with blood. By shedding His blood, our Lord Jesus fulfilled this provision and made reconciliation through His blood. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:22b)

We are invited to fix our eyes on Jesus “...who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and [is seated] at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) “... He 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! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” (Philippians 2:7-11)

How can an object of shame and suffering release us from the clutches of the evil one? The Bible answers that question. “He took it all away [our sins], nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

Amazing! God took a shameful cross, nailed a perfect man on it – His own Son – to make Him victorious over sin once and for all. Jesus on the cross paid the price that brought humanity victory, never to die any more. Everything the devil succeeded in -- inflicting sickness and disease on us -- Jesus has nailed to the cross. Each of us has to come to the cross on his own volition, to receive these benefits.

The cross in the hands of God Almighty, Jehovah, has been made a symbol of victory for all humanity. Jesus did it all. “In the Cross, in the Cross, be my glory ever; till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.” These words were penned by hymn writer Frances Jane van Alstyne to underscore that our glory is found in the Cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. When we embrace it, our souls will not taste eternal death for they will rise to eternal happiness [rest].   By His crucifixion and resurrection, our Lord Jesus has triumphed over sin and death. He lives again and so will we. ‘Death could not hold Him down, Jesus is the Risen King.’

Author: Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye