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Archive for the ‘Crucifixion’ Category

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2 NKJV

Paul’s statement is worth considering as we sit here in time less than a week out from the celebration of the Passion of the Christ.

What is Paul on about?

The words, “I determined,” speak of a choice. The fact that there was a choice implies that there were other ways Paul could have approached his ministry. For example, he could have tried to be relevant to his audience, modify his message to fit the population, work to attract the world to Jesus and the message of the cross. He could have employed music or drama to appeal to their tastes and make the crucifixion palatable.

But instead, he chose to put aside all rhetoric. This was no small thing because as a Jewish student of the law, he had been trained since a very early age to make arguments and support his position with theological statements of great thinkers from the past. It would have been well within his strength and religious training. He chose instead to let the cross speak for itself.

“[N]ot to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” speaks of a singleness of focus. It speaks of intentionality of thought. Why would he be so narrow in his focus? Perhaps because he knew the liberty of the cross–he himself had been a slave to the law, and had found great freedom in Christ. He wanted that for others. It might also have been the exigency of time that he felt. He may have felt that making the main thing the plain thing was the best use of time. Perhaps he knew the time was short before Christ would return for His church and Paul wanted as many to be ready as was possible.

Paul gives voice to his focus in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul saw that the cross changed how one lived in the temporal.

The cross presents a rift in the fabric of eternity–a fracture in the seemingly unchangeable progression of humanity from the garden forward. At the cross, the futility of the life of man has an end. It is possible for him to be no longer a vapor; no longer like the grass. At the cross, the human soul finds its potential to become a companion of God . . . forever.

Human argument is silenced by this horrific act of God.

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Even if you didn’t understand the sacrificial system under Mosaic law or the significance of the tearing of the veil in the Holy of Holies, granting access to God directly for the first time since God gave instructions for the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness–the Son of God, beaten within inches of His human life, hung on a Roman cross in a rock quarry like a common criminal has to draw your attention.

Paul “determined not to know anything . . .  except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” because that was all that mattered. It is still all that matters.

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the offense of the cross

The Cross, Martyn Lloyd-Jones

So when they [the Jews] found the one who claimed to be the Messiah [Jesus] dying in apparent weakness and helplessness upon the cross, they were deeply wounded and offended. They felt that this was nonsense, ridiculous. A Saviour, a deliverer, dying. He ought to be killing everybody else. He ought to be powerful and mighty, a great king and conqueror. He was an offence to them. He had demolished their preconceived notions and ideas. And it was exactly the same with the Greeks, these men who trusted to their own ability and were so proud of it . . .

We think we know what God expects, and we are quite confident that we can do it, that we have it in us. If we only put our backs and our wills into it, we can do it. Is that not it? The cross cuts right across it . . .

The cross proclaims at once that we are not saved by ideas. We are not saved by thought, or by understanding. We are not saved, if you like, by philosophy. But that is the one thing that the natural man believes–that we are saved in this manner. Who is going to save us? Well, the wise men. And who are they? The wise men are the great thinkers. The country is in trouble, in an awful mess. What can be done? Well, we want the best men, the best thinkers in every realm–political, philosophical, social and in every other respect. The best men, the best thinkers, are going to be our salvation. That is how man thinks instinctively. But here is something that tells us that we are not saved by thinking. We are not saved by good ideas. We are not saved by idealism. The most bitter opponents of the cross of Christ in this country today are the idealists who are not Christians. You see, they have their noble ideas, their thoughts about uplift, and what needs to be done, and so do the great profound philosophers. These are the important people, the world says, and they hate the cross, because it cuts right across what they believe . . .

The cross cannot be understood.

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In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.
 
When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me:
Lo! It glows with peace and joy.
 
When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds more lustre to the day.
 
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.

by John Bowering

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isaac wattsWhen I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

By Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

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Luke 23 recounts the story of Jesus hung on the cross between the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left.

Then one of the criminals who was hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:39-43

The thief’s relationship with God changed while he hung on the cross.  The thief hanging on the other side never changed his position.  We can only assume he will spend eternity separated from God in unspeakable torment and darkness.

One of the first fruits of Jesus’ crucifixion was the salvation of the one thief, a clear picture of God’s heart for the lost.  He is never too busy with His “agenda” to save one lost soul.  Even as He went to lay down His life to save all of humanity, He took time to save one wretched criminal even as his life was ebbing away.

Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

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Easter can surely be seen in Numbers, the 4th of the 5 books of the Pentateuch as the books of the law are often called.

Serpent on a pole

In Numbers 21, when the people had spoken against Moses and God, God sent fiery serpents among the people.  The serpents bit the people and many died.  When the Moses prayed for the LORD to have mercy on the people, God told Moses to make “a fiery serpent and put it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”   It was just as God had said.  God provided an antidote to save those who were otherwise doomed.

We know that this story speaks of the Son of Man because Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3 “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”   This time God was offering up His own son on a pole to save the lives of those who would believe.

The idea of a serpent on the pole being able to heal those who look on it seems too simple.  It is the same with the cross.  How simple is it?  Jesus said that whoever believes in the Son of Man, will have eternal life.  The cross was the way to get the attention of the lost and dying.  “Look up here!”  He said.  “You can be saved!”

Jesus foretold his own death by crucifixion.  In John 12, it is recorded that Jesus said, “If I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all peoples to Myself.” It goes on to say in the verse following, just so no doubt is left in the reader’s mind, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” 

Easter in Numbers.

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“The Wonderful Cross”

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace draw near and bless
Your name

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

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