Friday, January 22, 2016

Boasting in the Cross

We have been walking this road with Jesus marking his life, from his birth to his impending death, through the words of Mark. As we walk, we note that ever looming for Jesus is the cross. He knows that it is ultimately through the shame of the cross that glory will be won. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way, we look "to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)
It is hard for us to really comprehend the “shame” of the cross. Crosses have become so commonly connected with Christianity, adorning our churches and our necks, and the cultural distance is so great, that we have lost sight of the absolute degradation that Jesus went through on his path to glory. Fleming Rutledge in her work on the crucifixion says this,"[Crucifixion] was a form of advertisement , or public announcement — this person is the scum of the earth, not fit to live, more an insect than a human being. The crucified wretch was pinned up like a specimen. Crosses were not placed out in the open for convenience of sanitation, but for maximum public exposure.” In short, "Crucifixion as a means of execution in the Roman empire had as its express purpose the elimination of victims from consideration as members of the human race."
It has hard to believe that creator of humanity, the one who dignified humans with his very image, would suffer the indignation and degradation of the cross, virtually removing himself from humanity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Cost of Discipleship, written days before he would be executed by Hitler, said,"God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross .. [Christ] is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matthew 8:17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering … that is a reversal of what the religious man expects from God. "
 As we have seen, and will see again this week (Mark 9:30-41), the idea of a crucified Messiah was so difficult for the disciples to comprehend, and in truth it continues to be difficult for us. Like the first disciples, we, as Jesus’ later disciples, want power without weakness, light without darkness, glory without suffering, Easter without Good Friday. However, the more the reality of the cross shapes our way of thinking, the more we are able to make sense of the suffering in our lives and throughout the world. The more that we grasp that the path of weakness is the path to glory, the greater courage we will have (like Jesus, like Bonhoeffer) to take up our own cross and follow him.
"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him” (Mark 9:30).
The key to the Kingdom.

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