quote: what Christ’s cross accomplishes

 

“I suggest that we see the achievement of the cross in three expressions: Jesus dies ‘with us’ – entering into our evil and our sin and our suffering to subvert it and create a new way; Jesus dies ‘instead of us’ – he enters into our sin, our wrath, and our death; and Jesus dies ‘for us’ – his death forgives our sin, ‘declares us right,’ absorbs the wrath of God against us, and creates new life where there was once only death.

“Not only is this death saving, this same death becomes the paradigm for an entirely new existence that is shaped … by the cross. A life shaped by the cross is a life bent on dying daily to self in order to love God, self, others, and the world. And a life shaped by the cross sees in the cross God becoming the victim, identifying with the victim, suffering injustice, and shaping a cruciform pattern of life for all who would follow Jesus. The cross reshapes all of life.”

Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement; p.69

LIFE group guide: the colors of Christ’s cross

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (April 13) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To help us sense and appreciate the full spectrum of meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  The message of the cross is … the power of God for those of us who are being saved. (1 Cor. 1.18)

•  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, “Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” (Gal. 3.13)

•  God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. (Gal. 6.14)

•  He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross … (Eph. 2.16)

•  He brought peace through the blood of his cross. (Col. 1.20)

•  … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2.8)

•  He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed … (1 Pet. 2.24)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Do you have a favorite color? If so, what is it? Why is it your favorite?

2. Overall, are you more of a visual learner or an auditory learner?

3. Think of someone you love. What color are their eyes? “Their eyes often seem to ___.”

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Chew on Galatians 6.14 (especially vs.14b). What is the apostle Paul saying to us here?

2. Consider Eph. 2.16 and Col. 1.20. How did (does) Christ’s cross bring people together?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. What one color dominates your sense of what Christ accomplished on his cross? Why?

2. Just as we need Four Gospels, we need multiple colors to truly see the cross. How so?

3. With #1 in view, has your dominant color of his cross changed with age? Experience?

4. Picture Christ’s crucifixion. Does his resurrection and ascension re-color things?

5. Visualize taking up your cross and following Jesus. What colors do you see? Explain.

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Assign the color you “see” in each paragraph of Mk. 15.16-40. Let such prompt prayer.

2. As you pray through each day, allow colors of whatever stands out to you or strikes you to prompt your mindfulness of, and reflection on, Christ’s cross, and yours.

afterword

… in looking at the cross of Christ we are looking at considerably more even than excruciating (no pun intended) human pain. Christians believe that when we look at Jesus on the cross and meditate on that meaning, we are privileged to see as much of God as we ever hope to see. the cross is not simply the truth about the human condition; it’s the truth about God. Of all the things that might be said about us and God, the cross is the most crucial (no pun intended). The cross is not simply a ghastly sight of a naked man dying in agony, but also a full frontal disclosure of what God is up to in the world, a dramatic unveiling of who God really is, down deep. The cross is the crux of the matter between us and God (no pun intended). We really ought to call this Friday, holy Friday as the church has historically named this day, rather than good Friday for the goodness in this Friday requires considerable nuance to say just why Christians call the crucifixion of Jesus quote good.”

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, p.89

the seventh word

“Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” (Luke 23:46 CEB)

One way you can tell a true God from a homemade idol is that idols tend to promise us continuity, immortality, and security, being mirrors of our ideal selves. Israel was forced to leave the security of a well-functioning economy in Egypt and live with the freedom that God pushed her into in the uncertain wilderness. Our lust for “security” causes us to have the largest military budget of any country in the world. We so hope to establish ourselves by ourselves, in certainty and security, through our military hardware, our pension systems, our burglar alarms. Israel learned that the major threat to her security was not the Canaanites but rather the Lord. The prophets had to tell her that all attempts at “security” tend to be efforts to establish ourselves by ourselves, that is, idolatry.

But Israel existed only by God’s act. “It was because the Lord loved you” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Israel had no foundation, no means of existence, no secure reason for being here today or tomorrow, except as an undeserved, unearned, gracious act of God. Israel had to learn to worship her Lord even when circumstances (the exodus, the exile) did not warrant such confidence in God’s creative love. Abraham, the father of the faith of Israel, had to venture out to gain new not wear if he would walk with this God and be open to the promises of this God (Hebrews 11:1). Only God knew where Abraham was being taken. Abraham and Sarah had to let go and let God lead.

Of course the ultimate letting go, the ultimate Exodus and the final exile, the greatest of all insecurity is the annihilation of death. So when Christians speak of cross and resurrection, we are saying something akin to what Israel said when she remembered Exodus. We were nothing; then we were something, because of God. And we very well could be nothing again without God. Our only security is that much evaded insecurity that is called fidelity to a living God or, as Jesus put it here, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, pp.76-77

 

the sixth word

“It is completed.” (John 19:30 CEB)

Lord, here’s what we need today, right away, or as soon as we can get it: we need world peace, prosperity, security, life without risk, pleasure without pain, happiness without cost, and discipleship with no cross. That’s why we’re here, at church, to get our needs met. Our church tries to be user-friendly and seeker sensitive. That’s why on Sundays we serve espresso with a dash of amaretto before our services, a little caffeine boost until we get to the main point of our worship: prayer requests. So like we were saying, we need a quick recovery from gallbladder surgery, an effortless cataract removal, a happy marriage, obedient and chaste kids, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. If you love us, you’ll meet our needs.

Now then, is there something that we can do for you?

You’re thirsty? Well, if you’re the Messiah, why don’t you fix yourself a divine drink? We’ve got needs of our own, thank you. It’s our job to have need; it’s your job to meet need.

For this and all other needs, spoken and unspoken, felt and unfelt, incipient and obvious, personal and corporate, immediate and long-term, we pray. Amen.

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, p.60

the fifth word

After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28 CEB)

This fifth word is curious in light of Jesus’s repeated statements that he was the ultimate thirst quencher. “Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” was a claim that he made many times (John 4:14; 6:35). “If you’re thirsty come to me,” he said (John 7:37). The thirst quencher is now thirsty? This “I thirst” must mean more than simply that Jesus was, after all, not only divine but also human. In his saying, “I thirst,” we may be at the very heart of his divinity, that which makes Jesus God, one with the Father, and so very much unlike us. …

Maybe Jesus is talking about our thirst for our hunger. He says “I” thirst. Not you, not me. He said, “I thirst.” God Almighty, the son of the father is Thursday. The mocking soldiers offered him a sponge soaked in vinegar just to score him and his thirst.

But maybe he wasn’t thirsty even for water. Maybe he was thirsty for his righteousness’ sake. Maybe he was thirsty for us. Is not that a fair summary of much of Scripture – God’s got this thing for us? God is determined – through Creation, the words of the prophets, the teaching of the law, the birth of the Christ – to get close to us. God has this unquenchable thirst to have us. Even us. …

God’s in this fix, on this day, because God’s so thirsty for us.

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, pp.53,56,59

the fourth word

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?'” (Matthew 27:45-46 CEB)

But my church doesn’t do that well in the dark. “I’m at a happy church, unfortunately,” said a woman in my hearing. A “happy church?”

“Yep,” she explained. “Everything is so happy and upbeat. The preacher jumps up on stage at the beginning of the service, just grinning and giggling. Looks like he may be on some kind of drug, he’s so unbearably, insufferably happy. Every other word from him is “awesome!” “Wasn’t that an awesome song?” “Isn’t our praise band just awesome!” All the music is upbeat and giddy. It’s hell to be going through a tough time in your life and be forced to worship at a happy church.”

She reminded me of my last visit to an incurably “happy church.” After the service, as we were all just grinning and swinging our sunny way out into the parking lot, I had to ask the pastor, “Is there no one here today with cancer? No one whose marriage is failing?”

Like I said, my church doesn’t do all that well in the dark.

What words, what terrible, frightening words, this middle, dark word from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This is the word that sets all the other words from the cross in context. This is the word that holds together all the rest, the word that uncovers the scandal of the words.… The fourth word could not have been the first word. If it had been, I doubt we would’ve stayed for the other six. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And yet curiously, these searing words are words of hope. In the course of my life – in times of darkness and despair, when it has been my turn to walk the valley, true, a valley not as dark as the one that Jesus walked on Good Friday, but still dark – I may have blurted out some anguished words to God, but nothing I have said is as accusing, as angry, or is anguished as this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

To hear these words upon the lips of Jesus, to have these words here, is a great … comfort. …

Most of my prayers are, “God give me this, God grant me that. God deliver me, preserve me, rescue, save me.” Jesus did not ask the Father for deliverance but for presence. Jesus’ nearly last prayer was, “God, where are you?” …

Truly Christian prayer is, at its best, the honest prayer, “God, preserve me from trying to get you to run the world on my terms. Save me from trying to get my life to work out the way I want. Bend me to pray like Jesus, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done.'”

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, pp.39-40,43-44