Jesus never lured his disciples by false advertising. He said things like, “Deny thyself…” – “Take up thy cross….” He once looked at a multitude and said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…” With terms like that, there was never a stampede to join Him then. There is not likely to be one now.
The requirements for discipleship are still the same. We live in a society, though, that is not too keen on denying oneself and crosses are not stylish or in vogue in many places. Calvin Miller once wrote, “I’ve asked myself what it is that should so everlastingly bind his dying to my wholeness. By gazing upward I realize I am stalked by a passionate and illogical love altogether incapable of quitting its pursuit…I am rebuked by my own pursuit of an easy kingdom. I cannot place Good Friday in the distant past…All of life is packaged in suffering, and it is severe. His dying is my treasure, for it shows me the ‘how and why’ of my own dying and living, too.” You and I must echo the words of the Apostle Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
At this Easter season, we must see the naked splendor of the cross. It is the place where the Son of God gave His blood to wash away our sins. The story of His final 7 days consumes nearly half of The Book of John and from 1/3 to 1/4 of each of the other Gospels while the earlier thirty-three years and fifty-one weeks of Jesus’ life are crowded into the smaller opening chapters of each. The only instruction to remember given to the disciples was about the Cross. “This do in remembrance of me…” is a reminder to each of us every time we partake of communion to remember His body broken, His blood shed. He did not tell them to remember His virgin birth, the miracles He had performed. The instruction did not come after His resurrection and ascension, and was not about the promise of His second coming. He said, “This do in remembrance of me…” He was saying, “This is what love and grace and mercy looks like – remember Calvary, remember me.”
They had beaten Him. They had crowned Him with thorns. They had mocked Him, stripped Him, slapped Him, and tortured Him. His response was, “Father, forgive them…” The sinless One had taken on my sin, and yours. The prophet penned the story, “ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
From that cross, when He said, “It is finished…” all He could do as a man was done; all of God that could die was dying. Redemption’s plan was complete.
So as spring comes our way, and new life in fields and forests reminds us of His resurrection, let us not forget the cross. While other things may bid for our attention, a cross-less life is not an option. Let us live, instead, the lyrics penned by George Bennard in 1912:
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’’ll share.
So I’’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.