April 12th is Easter, Resurrection Sunday, the ultimate day of Christian celebration when we celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death and hell. In order to prepare for Resurrection Sunday, we are spending five weeks on Sunday mornings talking about “The Cross of Christ.”
For a number of years I did not prepare for Resurrection Sunday. Ok, so maybe I went shopping for a new tie, but for the most part Resurrection Sunday was just another Sunday. This is not our heritage as followers of Christ. The church has always celebrated the resurrection on Sunday. This is why we normally conduct worship services on the Sunday; it honors the day Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday is a mini-celebration of the resurrection. Nevertheless, for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years the Church has dedicated on day to be the ultimate celebration of the resurrection, the Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring…Resurrection (or Easter) Sunday.
Resurrection Sunday has historically been a day of celebration…renewing ourselves in the joy of the resurrection. And to experience the joy of the resurrection you need to reflect on the sorrow of the cross.
Lent is the historic way to prepare for Resurrection Sunday.
Lent is a way to identify with Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness before his public ministry began.
Lent is a way to reflect on the cross.
At the cross we see Jesus not as:
• Our life coach
• Our love guru
• Our therapist
• Our motivational speaker
• Or our mystic guide
Rather we see a humiliated, failed revolutionary being executed by the reigning empire… a failed revolutionary who billions of people for nearly 2,000 years have worshipped as the Son of God and Savior.
So why would he do it?
The 19th Century Danish philosopher Soren Kiekegaard said about Jesus:
“That one should push through the crowd in order to get to the spot where money is dealt out, and honor, and glory – that one can understand. But to push oneself forward in order to be flogged – how sublime, how Christian, how stupid!” — Training in Christianity
The cross is a paradox, a contradiction.
At the cross we see the glory and the shame; the beauty and pain in Jesus death.
For many people the cross is simply offensive. It is offensive to people who (like the ancient Greeks) are looking for wisdom, or self-help principles, or trite, pithy, common-sensical statements about life. Those who are looking into Christianity in order to find something to improve their lives are often offended when they are offered a bloody, tortured man on a cross.
It is a shocking, horrific scene, pitiful and offensive, but the cross of Christ is the pinnacle of history. Time is split by this one six hour event into BC (before Christ) and AD (not “After Death,” but the Latin phrase: Anno Domini, “after death). The cross of Christ split time and it is central to what we believe as followers of Christ.
Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. This is of primary importance.
The Apostle Paul, who was a religious hit man turned early church leader told a church in the ancient world: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Here’s the deal:
God who is maker of heaven and earth created us in his image. Sin perverted and corrupted us like a PC with corrupt files that will never boot up Windows no matter how much we cuss, scream, and bang on the keyboard.
Sin has made us less than human and utterly/eternally disconnected from God our Creator and Father. Because of our sin, we deserve death, hell, judgment, and punishment. But GOOD NEWS—Jesus came to be our substitute. On the cross, Jesus died in our place for our sins, bearing the guilt and shame of our sins and bearing the wrath of God, that our sins incurred.
From the cross, Jesus becomes our Savior and our Healer in order to make us into the new humanity body and soul. As the Savior he forgives us of our sins (past, present, and future). As the Healer he heals us physically and emotionally.
But forgiveness and healing come only as a result of the unthinkable, the ultimate gasp—the death of God. The cover of Time magazine on April 8, 1966 proclaimed “the death of God” and at the cross of Christ we see that very thing, the unimaginable death of God.
We will explore theses theme on Sunday mornings at Cornerstone Church in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday, April 12. Here are the five messages:
March 1 :: The Offensiveness of the Cross
March 8 :: Jesus our Substitute
March 15 :: Jesus our Savior
March 29 :: Jesus our Healer
April 5 :: The Death of God