Reflections before Easter

This is a surreal weekend. Yesterday was Good Friday and the thoughts of a suffering Messiah still linger inside me. I took a few minutes to think about weight of Christ’s death on the cross. I kept coming back to Philippians 2 for a picture of the incredible humility of Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

At the core of the Christian faith is the story of Jesus, God who entered the human story as one of us, and at the same time fully divine. He lived among us. Worked beside us. Was tempted the same as us. He was God in the flesh, humble to the point of being crucified. Jesus came to die. He didn’t come to merely teach, or even to show us what sacrifice looks like, he came to be sacrificed. I appreciate how Thomas Oden in Classic Christianity¬†describes this, “He [Jesus] did not come to teach about the cross, but to be nailed to it. He came that there might be a gospel to preach.” Jesus did not die to merely teach us about dying for others. He came to embody the atonement. It is as if God, through the cross, communicates to us, “This, this horrible death, this murder and betrayal I endured, this is how much I love you.” It is a demonstration of the seriousness and terrible cost of our sin, God’s holiness, and it is an expression of the extent of God’s love for the world.

The cross is bloody, and brutal, and terrible, and the horrors suffered upon it were excruciating. Without the cross there is no Christianity. Without the cross, there is no atonement. God’s holiness prompts the expression of love and sacrifice seen on the cross.

I quote Oden once more, “Sin dug a gulf in a relationship. The cross bridged it. Sin resulted in estrangement. The cross reconciled it. Sin made war. The cross made peace. Sin broke fellowship. The cross repaired and restored it.”

Before celebrating the resurrection, I find myself drawn to the horrific and bloody cross of Jesus. I am humbled, in awe, and grateful forevermore, even if my words lack the capacity to express it.

Where the Shepherd is

In an effort to make good on #7 of my Theological 13 for 2013, I’ve been reading St. Ignatius of Antioch. I don’t have much to add to the below passage (except that the translator makes St. Ignatius sound like Yoda at times, no complaints here), so I’ll let Ignatius do my talking :

Being born, then, of the light of truth, shun division and bad doctrines. Where the Shepherd is, there you, being sheep, must follow. For, many wolves there are, apparently worthy of confidence, who with the bait of baneful pleasure seek to capture the runners in God’s race; but if you stand united, they will have no success.

-Ignatius of Antioch, Ignatius to the Philadelphians 2:1-2