This is a special day, Palm Sunday. In honor of that day when Jesus was shown respect by the people of Jerusalem by the saving of palm branches I’m posting an article I wrote for a magazine, The Lookout, a few years ago. This is the first half; the second half will appear next Sunday. I hope it blesses you today.
As a writer, the Apostle Paul knew how to sling words together to create an explosion. When he referred to Jesus as the “crucified Christ”, he coupled words that would have angered his readers. Jews could see Roman crosses erected inPalestineand recalled the curse instituted by God upon anyone hanged on a tree “…Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse…” (Deuteronomy 21:23). The Greeks and Romans reasoned that God’s Chosen One would never be treated as a rebellious slave on anything as utterly offensive and undignified as a cross!
The cross in the days of Christ stood for the worst type of execution. Crucifixion was reserved by law for murderers, inciters of rebellion and the lowest kind of criminals. The cross meant tragic suffering and slow death for its victims, made worse because they were exposed to the physical elements and animals that prowled at night.
In a strange twist of irony, the church now views this former symbol of humility and shame as the path to life and salvation. God designed His amazing plan of redemption so the cross was the principal prop used in the drama that established the Christian faith. Without the cross, there could have been no suffering, atoning death of the Son of God. This ultimate symbol of Christ’s love for an unrepentant world is still relevant to us today. Here are three ways the cross of Christ helps us live for God.
1. The cross makes the power of God available to us.
Under the inspiration and courage of the Holy Spirit, Paul used the term, “crucified Christ”, to describe how God showed His wisdom and His power in the cross of Christ. The power of God for transforming our lives came through the weakness of Christ at the cross.
People like to glory in things they own or can accomplish. Not the Apostle Paul. He knew Christ had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, yet Paul gloried in the cross. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world is crucified to me and me to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
Paul was dead to the world and the world to him. The world had become nothing to him. Paul found in Christ’s death on the cross the power to resist temptation of worldly ambition.
Through Jesus Christ’s suffering on the cross we resist the temptation to hate and instead, demonstrate love. The forgiveness we gain at the cross enables us to forgive. Although the world worships power and prestige, we show the world that true power lies in the enduring love displayed on the cross of Jesus Christ. (pull quote)
Many of us will be called on to bear crosses in our lives. These may be crosses of loneliness, illness, poverty, and abuse. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor during the Nazi era. In 1939 Bonhoeffer gave up a lectureship inLondonto return toGermanyto help fellow Christians resist the Nazis. The decision was costly. Bonhoeffer participated in a plot to overthrow Hitler and was arrested in 1943. In 1945 he was hanged at Flossenburg concentration camp on April 9, only days before the area was liberated by the Allies.
Bonhoeffer bore his cross willingly and with courage. As followers of the cross, we can be confident that, as the Father fortified his Son for the endurance of the cross and suffering, He will also attend us during our cross-bearing.
(Next week “Part 2 — “The Significance of the Cross”)