Pondering the Cross

Some profound thoughts to reflect on as you ponder the meaning of the cross.

In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. . . One may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too. . . .

The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into his own universe, and gave up his life and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away, there is nothing specifically Christian left.

~ C.S. Lewis, from Miracles

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This time only, of all his prayers in the Gospels, Jesus used the formal, distant word “God” rather than “Abba” or “Father.” He was quoting from a psalm, of course, but he was also expressing a grave sense of estrangement. Some inconceivable split had opened up in the Godhead. The Son felt abandoned by the Father.

“The hiddenness of God perhaps presses most painfully on those who are in another way nearest to Him, and therefore God Himself, made man, will of all men be by God most forsaken,” wrote C.S. Lewis. No doubt he is right. It matters little if I am rebuffed by the checkout girl at the supermarket or even by a neighbor two blocks down the street. But if my wife, with whom I’ve spent my entire adult life, suddenly cuts off all communication with me – that matters.

No theologian can adequately explain the nature of what took place within the Trinity on that day at Calvary. All we have is a cry of pain from a child who felt forsaken. Did it help that Jesus had anticipated that his mission on earth would include such a death? Did it help Isaac to know his father Abraham was just following orders when he tied him to the altar? What if no angel had appeared and Abraham had plunged a knife into the heart of his son, his only son, whom he loved? What then? That is what happened on Calvary, and to the Son it felt like abandonment.

~ Philip Yancey, from The Jesus I Never Knew

There is no greater sin than to hate and kill the Son of God. There was no greater suffering nor any greater innocence than the suffering and innocence of Christ. Yet God was in it all. “It was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). His aim, through evil and suffering, was to destroy evil and suffering. “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Is not then the passion of Jesus Christ meant by God to show the world that there is no sin and no evil too great that God, in Christ, cannot bring from it everlasting righteousness and joy? The very suffering that we caused became the hope of our salvation. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

~ John Piper, from The Passion of Jesus Christ. Piper lists 50 reasons that Christ suffered and die. this is the 50th:  to show that the worst evil is meant by God for good.

Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. . . The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

~ Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest


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