The counter-intuitive wisdom of the cross

An Easter meditation

The trouble with the cross is that it’s a counter-intuitive solution for the sin of the world.

The evil in God’s earthly realm is the rejection of his divine authority, people grasping power for themselves and using that power to deceive and dominate each other. It offends our sense of justice, so we want revenge. We can’t sit by and do nothing, but taking matters into our own hands and fighting back only perpetrates the cycle of violence.

We want God to act against evil, to put down his foot and crush it so it can’t continue. God doesn’t. God doesn’t act violently to overcome violence. God doesn’t use force against force. God does not control evil by doing evil against evil-doers.

So what does God do to deal with the injustice in his realm? He enters his unjust realm as one of us. He meets face-to-face with the rebellion against his reign, the people who will do anything to take divine power into their own hands. God confronts evil, from a position of powerlessness.

Can this work? The crucifixion of Jesus certainly exposes human evil for what it is. How do the rulers of this world gain and retain their power? The cross reveals that it’s the power of Death that fuels the rebellion against God’s reign. The sign is right there, over his head as they strung him up to die, the “King of the Jews.”

On the seventh day, God rested … in the tomb. Once again, God seems in no hurry to resolve the injustice of this world.

On the first day of the new week, God acts against the injustice. But he doesn’t seek revenge. He doesn’t pass a sentence of death on the rebels who assassinated his son. He passes life into the tomb, raising his son up out of death, to the throne.

That’s the counter-intuitive wisdom of the cross. The cross is how God saves his earthly realm — not by giving death to those who resisted his reign, but by giving life to his anointed ruler, so his Son restores his reign. That’s how salvation comes to us: we declare our allegiance to Jesus as earth’s true ruler and trust the wisdom of the cross, God’s upside-down wisdom of regaining his reign by giving life to his son rather than death to the rebels:

Romans 10 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

When you trust the wisdom of God who saves the world through the cross, you hear him call, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 10:38; 16:25). Taking up our cross means we will suffer and die for the salvation of the world rather than kill or seek revenge. When we follow Jesus in the way of the cross, we renounce our demand for justice, and we carry away the injustice instead.

When all humanity is willing to take up the cross and follow Jesus, the wisdom of the cross has saved the world. In the meantime, expect to suffer. Life is as dangerous for us as it was for our Lord. But the way of the cross is the only way. There is no alternative by which the world can be saved.

Until the people of God are willing to absorb and carry away the evil of the world, the world will not be saved. The evil will remain. That’s what Jesus said:

Matthew 6 14 For if you’ve released people from their offences, your heavenly Father will release you too. 15 But if you haven’t released people, neither will your Father release you from your offences.

Salvation comes to the world when I no longer react against evil and demand justice for myself, when the life of the resurrected Messiah flows out of my being to heal his world:

Galatians 2 19 Through the demands of the law, I died to legal demands, so I could live to God. In the Messiah, I entered his crucifixion. 20 No longer do I live; the Messiah lives in me. What I’m living now in my physical life is by the faith of the son of God who loved me and handed himself over for me. 21 I won’t push aside the grace of God, for if things could be set right through legal demands, then Christ’s death was gratuitous. (Original translation)

Will you join us in the crucified life that absorbs evil and carries it away, so the restorative life of the Messiah comes to humanity? Will you join me in a life based on the counter-intuitive wisdom of the cross?


For further thought

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay

Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could

For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star
Like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are
How fragile we are

— Sting

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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