Skip to main content

Christ Without A Cross

H. Richard Niebuhr said that Americans believe: A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross[i].  That is a convicting statement.  It’s easy to think of the cross as a beautiful piece of art or jewelry, rather than what it fully represents.

When I meditate on my sins, I have no place to leave them but the cross.  As much as I don’t like to think over my sins, I don’t like to think about the cross even more.  It is a truly horrific and inhumane site.  The movie The Passion of the Christ, physicians’ documentation of the cross’s effect on the body, and reading the Bible’s description of Jesus’ sufferings alert my senses to the reality of the suffering Christ endured on my behalf.  But no matter how serious I am about identifying my sins, or meditating on Christ’s sufferings, I could never fully understand what it was like. The cross of criminals was the most brutal treatment one man could impose on another.  It involved shame, humiliation, excruciating pain, mockery and torture.  God, love, torture, mockery, it all comes together in a beautifully repugnant way. 

When I visited Israel I went to place called Nazareth Village where Christians have built a mini hamlet to demonstrate what life was like in the first century.  They prepared a cross built according to the historical documents and its size brought an even deeper awe about the cross to my soul.  The cross was probably only about six feet off the ground, as the crucified human was nailed in a seated position with knees bent so that it would cause more pain when the person attempted to draw breath. 

            Here’s a picture I took of their realistic version of a 1st century cross from at Nazareth Village. What stunned my soul was how intimate it must have been for Jesus.  His mother, John, the mockers and others were closer to Him than I imagined.  The cross of Christ was real.  It was vicious.  It was reserved for rogues.   This is where our God chose to conquer the reality of sin.  In the season of Lent we take forty days to take in this truth.  His sacrifice was not just gruesome, it was redemptive.  It was the ugly answer to the ugliness of sin. 

Like the Apostle Paul, when I truly think about the cross I exclaim: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).  Christ’s suffering helps me accept my own suffering.  Rather than being overcome by it, I look for how God has designed redemptive powers into my own suffering.  Whatever suffering God allows into my life has the same power of Christ’s suffering. 

The American way is the gospel of success, the New Testament teach me the Gospel of the cross.


Popular posts from this blog

You Shall Not Be Overcome

I distinctly remember sending this quote by Julian of Norwich to a recently widowed friend of mine over ten years ago.  You will not be overcome.
God did not say you will not be troubled,
You will not be belaboured,
You will not be disquieted;
But God said, You will not be overcome.
The quote in one of my devotional books for July 23, which marks the day I became a widow myself is by the same author.  “One day God spoke to me and I heard these words, “you won’t be overcome.”  God wants us to pay attention to His words.  God wants us to be strong in our certainty in Him, always, both in good times and in bad.  The Lord loves us, and God so enjoys our company.  God loves being with us and wants us to love Him and enjoy being with Him and trust Him completely, and all will be well.”  As I write this six years since his death I can attest to the reality that all will be well.  God chose to bless me with a second marriage to a wonderful man who holds my hand through this hur…

The Worst

What is the worst thing you think could happen to you?  There are so many options in a fallen world that it is hard to consider the worst.  We try not to think about it.  We do think we are going through the worst thing when we lose a loved one, are betrayed by a friend or family, sent to prison, or become the victim of a crime.  You know the worst thing that has happened to you.  You can think of someone for whom you are grateful that what happened to that person didn’t happen to you.               The world is full of frightening and dreaded options of worst case scenarios.  When you read the Bible, it is not hard to decide what the worst thing that could happen in your lifetime would be.  The Bible makes it clear that the worst is that you do not believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and be saved.               That sounds like a Sunday School answer doesn’t it?  It doesn’t feel that bad to say “No Thank You” to God.  Many don’t even recognize the day that they to…

Repenting for My Worship

Psalm 51: 15-17 describes true worship: Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
               The Lenten Season shoves in our faces the reality of who God is.  He is the God who killed His Son to conquer death for the humans He had formed with His hands in love.  What kind of God does that?  What kind of God creates heavens and earths, all the while knowing that the inhabitants could turn on Him in an instant? He had the power to destroy everything He created, yet finds a way to allow all the inhabitants to have their own way, either to follow Him or follow their own will?  He is the GREAT I AM.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is worthy of all praise.  He created us to bring Him praise (Isaiah 43:21).  He declares that His Son is worthy of even higher prai…