Reflections On The Cross

“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”  Luke 6:22

This week I have begun a reading of “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ” by Fleming Rutledge.  (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2015.)  This marvelous book is leading me into a deepening reflection on the cross of Christ.  Some of these reflections I hope to focus upon in these Blog Posts over the next few months.  Rutledge makes the powerful point that Christ Crucified is really central to the whole life of the Christian Church.

Today I just want to include a couple of quotations in order to sharpen our focus on the life that we are called to as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“This chapter has been about the primacy of the cross.  We have not yet said enough about the godless nature of it; that is the subject of the next chapter.  Episcopal v=bishop Philip Rhinelander, in the “Faith of the Cross”, summarizes for us the astonishing but insufficiently noted fact that the first Christians were determined to make the godlessness primary:

“If ever mortal men found a real hero on this earth, those men were the disciples.  They, indeed, were hero worshippers.  Then think of the horrid shock and shame which overwhelmed them at the Cross.  It was no splendid martyrdom for a great cause, no glorious conquest won at the cost of life; no epic to be sung and celebrated.  No, the Cross was simply an utter overthrow, a speechless failure.  It was all sordid, cruel, criminal, a gross injustice, and intolerable defeat of good by evil, of God by devils…..  He, their hero, their chosen leader, He was numbered with the transgressors.  He was cast out with a curse upon Him.  Think how loyalty would burn to right this wrong, to clear His memory, to save His reputation, to prove that gross outrage had been done to Him, to magnify the life so that the death might be forgotten…. But nothing of the kind seems to have occurred to the Evangelists.  They literally glory in the Cross…. They are clear, with an absolute conviction, that the best and most wonderful thing He ever did was…to die a felon’s death, between two robbers.  It was their hero’s greatest heroism that He was executed as a common criminal.”

To summarize then: the crucifixion is the touchstone of Christian authenticity, the unique feature by which everything else, including the resurrection is given its true significance.”

At the beginning of the next chapter Rutledge quotes from Kenneth Leech from “We Preach Christ Crucified”.

“In order to speak of the crucified God we need a theology of  abandonment, of dereliction, of an alienation so profound that it can only be expressed in a language marked by paradox and by great daring and risk.  The crucifixion of the Son of God by one of the most advanced civilizations in the ancient world does not seem to be an acceptable or reasonable method of redeeming the world.  There is something so outrageous and obscene about it that the agony of Gethsemane becomes the only comprehensible part of the whole saga.”

I hope this leads you into your own profitable reflections on Jesus Christ and Him crucified.