“Courageous young leader wins the hearts of the people!” No such headliner occurred in the Jerusalem times. This Man, named Jesus from Nazareth, had entered the city with great fanfare a few days before, but by Friday, He had systematically alienated almost everyone of influence. The religious leaders—Pharisees, High Priest, Scribes and Elders—had even planned His execution. The political leaders—Herod, Caiaphas and Pontus Pilate—were stooges in the Roman kangaroo court.
Another young leader liquidated. The Romans were the best in the world at squelching revolutionaries. That day marked another enemy of the state, brutally crucified. Rome wins. Rome always has the last word.
But in this case, they didn’t. They had unleashed a movement. At a brutal bloodied cross, something had begun. N.T. Wright writes, “As Jesus followers looked back on that day in the light of what happened soon afterward, they came up with the shocking, scandalous, nonsensical claim that [Jesus’] death had launched a revolution. That something happened that afternoon that had changed the world.”
As Jesus breathed His last and gave up His spirit on that dark Friday, everything had changed.
The greatest movement the world has ever known was launched that day! All of the Disciples and all of the Gospel Writers would later point to that afternoon as the birthplace of a Kingdom of God Revolution that would shake the values, systems and order of the world forever.
The Christian writers, who were witnesses of the crucifixion, used shocking expressions of joy, delight and thanksgiving when describing the Death of Christ. Paul would write, “He loved me and gave Himself up for me,” (Gal. 2:20) and “The Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3) and “But God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 6:14). John would write, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). The focus was not the Resurrection, but the Cross.
In the Western world, we so easily embrace self-discovery, self-actualization and self-realization as though this is the heart of the Gospel. But the Cross stands out as a reminder of another perspective. That it’s only through the Death of Christ that we find ourselves, our true selves. It’s only in dying to self, that we discover our true selves.
Even the headlines of the past few years have seen the beheading of Jesus followers all over the Middle East. We have read about churches being bombed, children and wives raped and sold into slavery, only because they follow Jesus. Their witness is extraordinary.
So here we are, confined to our homes with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world. Even as we experience some of the inconveniences of our forced quarantine, may we pause and realize that God is giving us a tiny glimpse into how quickly our lives can be disrupted. Even how flimsy our hopes are if they are attached to the values and conditions of this world.
But for the Jesus Follower, the Wholehearted Jesus Disciple, nothing has changed. The Cross represents to us a Kingdom of God Revolution that we are witnesses to. We still cling to the Cross. We actually should be rejoicing. For it is often, in our most difficult times, that we rediscover that the only steadfast, unchanging thing is the Cross. The writer of Hebrews sums it up, “The removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” (Hebrew 12:27-28). Rejoice, for it is in such times as these that we are receiving the Unshakable Kingdom.
Rejoicing in the Cross,
Steve Holt M.A., D.D