The Revolutionary Cross
As we draw near to Good Friday, our hearts and minds should be drawing evermore near the cross of Jesus. But there are many temptations when it comes to the cross. Some are tempted by familiarity with the cross. They believe they “get it”, and have fashioned a safe place for it in their lives. Others are tempted by history, that is, they see the cross as primarily an historic object, something having to do more with then than now.
Of course, there is no doubt that what Jesus did on the cross is an historic event, a once-for-all victory over sin and death. When He cried, “It is finished”, he spoke the truth. But at the same time, if we claim familiarity with the cross, the reality of what He did then must have a radical impact on who we are now. Good Friday should remind me not only of His death, but also the death to which He calls me. The pastor/teacher/writer A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) expressed this sentiment well in his book The Root of the Righteous. May his words drive us back to God's word, and through it, to new life.
The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men.
The cross of old Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took Him down six hours later. That was the cross the first time it appeared in Christian history.
After Christ was risen from the dead the apostles went out to preach His message, and what they preached was the cross. And wherever they went into the wide world they carried the cross, and the same revolutionary power went with them. The radical message of the cross transformed Saul of Tarsus and changed him from a persecutor of Christians to a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. Its power changed bad men into good ones. It shook off the long bondage of paganism and altered completely the whole moral and mental outlook of the Western world.
All this it did and continued to do as long as it was permitted to remain what it had been originally—a cross. Its power departed when it was changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty. When men made of it a symbol, hanging around their necks as an ornament or made its outline before their faces as a magic sign to ward off evil, then it became at best a weak emblem, at worst a positive fetish. As such it is revered today by millions who know absolutely nothing about its power.
The cross effects its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim's, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. It cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible.
With perfect knowledge of all this Christ said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). So the cross not only brings Christ's life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer's life and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.