Few people understand the way of the cross.
We think of Jesus’ cross as something that relieves personal guilt. We don’t realize the cross is the instrument for restoring God’s reign. We don’t see how the cross has power to free the world from what crushes it.
The way of the cross is dangerous. Confront enemies who are better armed than you, and history says you’ll probably die. Conventional wisdom is to “do unto others before they do unto you.”
The confrontation Jesus planned on his final journey to Jerusalem was always going to get him crucified rather than crowned. We prefer to view Jesus’ pain as something that relieves my pain. Jesus had to die for me, for my personal sins. Because he died, I can live. He took the way of the cross I don’t have to.
That’s not Jesus’ message. He expected his followers to take up crosses too. They did, and the outcome was the same. They were killed by the powers they confronted, just like their Lord.
That’s the trouble with a world in conflict. Who stops shooting first? Do you wait for a joint ceasefire, laying down your weapons only when others are willing to? Or do you start the process, laying down your weapons — even if you do get shot — as the path to peace?
What was the cross?
- The cross was God refusing to fire back at those who wanted his power over the world.
- The cross was God refusing to use megatons of his infinite power to destroy his enemies and enforce his reign.
- The cross was God bringing hostilities to an end by laying down his power.
- The cross was God reaching out his hands to those who resisted him, and dying at their hands.
- The cross is what it was for Jesus: the deadly path to peace, the world’s only exit from the cycle of violence.
If you don’t believe the cross is God’s way to rescue the world, you’ll do whatever it takes to save your own skin. Laying down your life will seem like madness:
1 Corinthians 1:18 (paraphrased)
To those caught in the web of destruction, Jesus’ solution is crazy — confronting evil and being crucified by those in power. But to those who are being rescued, the cross is how God expresses his power.