the cross and death

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Every year as I step into Holy Week I try to have a fresh perspective. What can the week of Jesus’ passion say to me that enriches Easter and my faith once again? I think about the creeds. From The Apostle’s Creed we confess, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.” From The Nicene Creed we confess, ” For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.” I think out of the two, the Nicene creed communicates more clearly what I am journeying through this year. “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven…was made human.” You see, I think this is where our redemption begins. It may find it’s culmination in the cross and resurrection, but it began at the incarnation.

When Jesus stepped into flesh he began to show us what it means to die to self. As the songwriter Charles Wesley put it, “[He] Emptied himself of all but love”. Throughout his earthly life he knew nothing but holy interaction with those around him. He grew up as a son born out of wedlock, in a community seen as deplorable, and quickly learned what it meant to be subject to the powers of this world. He befriended fishermen, tax-collectors, zealots (read terrorists), drunkards, prostitutes, lepers and the like. He taught about the Kingdom that embraced the least of these, children and women. He illustrated what it meant to lead a life given over for others, given over to death and asked us to take up our cross in the same manner in which He had done from that moment the Heavens ripped open in Bethlehem. But we couldn’t. We chose his death instead. In fact, the cross is what happens when we choose God’s death over ours.

Jesus’ entire life was cruciform in nature. What I mean by that is that His entire life was given over for others. The very fact that he stepped into flesh as God is itself death-like in nature. And yet, we get frustrated when we are briefly inconvenienced by a church service that lasts too long or a teen that requires too much of our time or a kid who can’t seem to keep it together during worship. This is why Paul says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18 When we are more concerned with our own needs and concerns, which we know lead to destruction, the cross seems a silly and foolish thing. In fact, it would be much easier for God to die over and again in our place than for us to die to self even for a moment. Yet, when we get it…when it finally clicks…when we realize what the cross and holy week call us to…the message of the cross becomes for us the power of God. This is where my Holy Week meditation has taken me this year…to the foot of the cross once more. But it is now my own cross and I pray to God for the power to bear it once again.

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