When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they...
What is the message of the cross? I think this is a good question to pose, because in one sense, there is only one answer. But in another sense, there are so many. To answer simply, it is reconciliation—that great word that Paul (who wrote much of the New Testament and shared the Gospel across much of the known world at the time) uses to describe God’s purpose and ministry for us. But there are also so many other ways to verbalize the message. There is sacrifice, restoration, life, and death, too. There is surrender, and intense love, grace and mercy, brutality. Each word captures an aspect of what was going on there, and what goes on around us today. So then, as we approach Resurrection Day (Easter Sunday), what is the message of the cross? Actually, it doesn’t stop at the cross. The resurrection is the exclamation point to the message of the cross.
What if you walked Jesus’ road this week? The excitement and seeming victory of Palm Sunday—entering Jerusalem to great fanfare and approval (Matthew 21:1-11)… the quiet time of holy celebration with his disciples (and betrayer) in the upper room (26:17-30)… the spiritual heaviness of surrender in Gethsemane (vv. 36-56)… the betrayal of a close friend, close enough to kiss… arrest, mortification, abandonment, brutal abuse and unspeakable suffering… death… silence… and… VICTORY.
There is a beautiful worship song by Craig Musseau called “Gethsemane” (© 1991 Mercy Publishing) that has touched me ever since I first heard it many years ago. In it, Jesus himself cries out to God (his Father) while anticipating the cross:
My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.
Sorrow overtakes Me, darkness looms all around,
There’s no light to be found.
It’s a long hard road that You’ve put Me on,
And I am all alone. But I choose to die
For the ones that You have given Me.
Not My will but Yours be done, not My will but Yours be done.
Father if it’s not possible for this cup to be taken from Me
Then will I drink it, for My life is in Your hands
And You must fulfill Your plan.
And because God fulfilled that plan, the tomb was empty:
“… Peter and [John] started for the tomb. Both were running, but [John] outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed” (John 20:3-8 NIV, emphasis added).
May your celebration of Easter this year be filled with:
- awe at Jesus coming to earth as a little baby,
- sorrow at the human sin that made the cross necessary,
- gratitude that he chose to submit to death on it on our behalf, and
- great joy that because he overcame death through his resurrection, we too can be made fully alive as we follow him!
Happy Resurrection Day!