The Success of the Cross

The death of Jesus on the cross on behalf and in place of sinful humankind has been the centerpiece of Christianity for two thousand years. Of course, without the resurrection, the cross would be a waste, but without the cross, there would be no resurrection. Jesus had to die before he could come back to life. Even more, to get to the reason for the cross, Jesus had to die so that we might live.

This view that Jesus died so we don't have to is called "substitutionary atonement," and it's best expressed in Scripture in Isaiah 53:4-6. Substitutionary atonement troubles some believers, in particular young adults who are troubled by "religiously motivated violence." On a personal level, they struggle with a God who would subject his own son to the violence and horror of the cross, something Tony Jones refers to as "divine child abuse."

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God and the F-Word: Mumford & Sons Make Me Wonder

God and the F-Word: Mumford & Sons Make Me Wonder

 

On Good Friday I went to a really good concert.  The Railroad Revival Tour featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and most expectantly Mumford & Sons.

 
 

"This April, Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show will embark on a tour unlike any in recent memory. Traveling exclusively in vintage rail cars, the three bands will journey across the American Southwest over the course of a week. The aptly titled Railroad Revival Tour will feature the three bands playing concerts at six unique outdoor locations along the route, beginning April 21st in Oakland, California."

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What is truth?

What is truth?  This question the Roman Governor Pilate asked Jesus is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago.  Pilate may have been replying in a sarcastic manor when Jesus stood before him claiming himself to be the truth, but it is a reality each of one of us must answer.  What is the truth about Christ?  As this is the week of Passover, Good Friday, and Easter, I want to help answer this question of who Jesus is by examining the last part of Olivet discourse found in Matthew 25:31-46.

Matthew 25:31-46 is a very popular passage these days.  It is often used by social justice minded people calling attention to make provision for the “least of these” in society.  Although this is a noble and important aspect of understanding this passage, it would be better to make this a secondary point of application.  The primary point of this passage is to ask what are the requirements for entrance into God’s kingdom?

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Now What?

Good Friday and Easter combine to create an emotional roller coaster of faith packed into a single weekend. Reflection upon Good Friday can bring darkness, conviction, grief, introspection, gratitude, and worship. And reflection upon Easter can bring wonder, fear, faith, hope, exhilaration, trembling, and deep joy. These days are two sides of a single coin of faith, one rooted in belief in a God who holds power over sin and death, for our sake and His glory.

But the depths and heights of these emotions cannot be sustained over life’s journey; there are plains among the valleys and peaks. This is why we remember these things regularly in communion, preaching, and days of remembrance. So we may find ourselves wondering how we should continue in Christian living following a weekend of such magnitude.

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5 Things Jesus Taught Me on the Cross (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 5)

The cross is more about life than death. Jesus teaches us how to live life in his last moments. He teaches us what it means to be godly—to love those who hate you, even in the most painful circumstances. Here are the five things Jesus taught me on the cross:

1. Forgiveness is about us, not them. Forgiveness is not dependent upon other people’s actions. Luke’s gospel records Jesus looking down on the men who beat him and crucified him, and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus doesn’t ask God to forgive the men who crucified him, and the crowd who mocked and beat him, because they deserve mercy, but because they are ignorant. They are anything but deserving. Jesus forgiving those who killed him shows us more about him than it does them. He was right with God, even when people had done wrong by him. We should forgive others because God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it.

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The Lost Servant: Really Good on Good Friday (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Bonus Post)

Was Jesus’ death and resurrection prophesied? I think so. Was it prophesied that he would suffer on our behalf? I think so. Try “prophesied 500 years before Jesus came on the scene” on for size:

Isaiah 53:10 (My Translation)

Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted [him] (with sickness). If [Zion or Jerusalem] places his life a guilt offering

Then Something Miraculous Happens: Isaiah 53:10–12 (My Translation)

[The servant] will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh in his hand will succeed. From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied.

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10 Gooder Things about Good Friday (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 4)

‘Gooder’ is not a word, but it should be. Here are 10 gooder things we can learn from Jesus on Good Friday.

 

1.      Jesus knows our flaws. Even though Jesus knew Peter would deny him, he chose the cross for him (and us) anyways (Matt 26:75). This gooder thing happens before sunrise on Good Friday.

2.      Jesus’ suffering happens on a holy day: the Passover. It’s so holy that the priests won’t enter the Roman governor’s house because they are worried about being defiled. If you like irony, this is it. The priests basically say, “We are happy to convince a Roman governor to crucify an innocent man, but entering his house, that won’t work. You see, we really want to eat a holy, religious meal. We love the God of Israel, and wish to obey all his commandments.” Sure you do, you sleezsters. Now tell me this, “Is religion a problem?” I think so, people. I think so. This gooder thing happens at day break on Good Friday (Luke 23:66).

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I Am A Thief

A meditation in poem on Good Friday (Matthew 27, Luke 23).

The morning came before sleep,
My eyes held open in hazy fear,
Body tense, and spirit quenched,
Fists holding tightly to nothing,
As if time could be restrained in the palm of my hand.

Death was in the air, and coming for me.
My sentence ringing in my ears,
As the bell of my fate chimed clear within,
The loneliness that filled my heart surpassed only by
The anger I felt for my lot in life.

“You are a thief,” came a voice from inside,
“But you don’t deserve this,” and I believed the voice.
I stole, but I am more than a thief. I am a man,
A good man, not perfect, but good,
And not deserving of this fate.

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The Cross and the Tomb: Good Friday

Christ is risen! On Easter, we raise our voices in praise and thanksgiving, celebrating the victory won for us by Our Lord, our new life made possible in His new life.  

And rightly we do celebrate – but before we do, wait a moment. Paul writes in Romans that “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom 6:5 ESV). How easy it is to jump ahead, in our eagerness to be united with Our Lord in a resurrection like His own mighty resurrection. Stop for a moment. Stop and think on Paul’s words: “if we have been united with him in a death like his.” A death like Jesus’ death. What does that mean?

We cannot come to new life without death. We cannot find the Risen Lord without the Cross; we cannot reach Easter any way except through the agony of Good Friday and the emptiness of Holy Saturday.

The Drama Queen High Priest (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 3)

In our “5 Days in 4 Gospels” series we have talked about why Pastor Eastwood is wrong and discussed why Peter went Jackie Chan on a mobster. Now let’s talk about the drama queen high priest. Why does Jesus react the way he does to the priest? Why doesn’t he call down angels from heaven? Answer: To fulfill prophecy.

After a mob nabs Jesus, they take him to Caiaphus the high priest. Peter follows at a distance, because he is a bit hesitant about admitting his connection to Jesus (Matt 26:58). (He will say he doesn’t know Jesus shortly.) The chief priests, some elders, some experts in the law of Moses, and the entire Sanhedrin (an upper-class, religiously-authoritative group), begin to prompt people to testify falsely against Jesus. When? The middle of the night. Their deeds will be done in darkness, because their deeds are dark. Why? Power. They want to kill Jesus because they are afraid of losing their position of authority. But they couldn’t prove that he had said anything false, even though lots of people testified against him (Matt 26:59–60).

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