Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Are We To Take Away From The Experience Of The Cross?

And heaven is silent.

What happened between the crucifixion and the resurrection? We have no idea. We can speculate but the Scriptures are silent about the happenings in the spiritual realms. Perhaps heaven rested, waiting in anticipation as the disciples found each other and went into hiding. We are left to ponder and simply reflect on the amazing work done on the cross.


I think the work done on the cross can be summed up in one very poignant moment. It is when Jesus called out for the forgiveness of his enemies, as they drove those spikes through his flesh:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. (Luke 23:34)

This should take us back to his earlier teaching on loving our enemies:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)

Jesus lived out on the cross what he had taught his disciples:

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (v. 37)

The whole message of the cross is Yahweh forgiving his enemies: us. Wherever the blood of the sacrificial Lamb is applied, the judgment of Yahweh will pass over. That is the great victory of the cross and we celebrate it wholeheartedly. What a fantastic thing Jesus has done for us and at great cost. But the message of the cross is not just about what has been done for us.

Jesus' message was very clear before the cross: Following him as his disciple was not just about receiving from him, but it was about us giving out. He told his disciples, "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8) He told the parable about the king who forgave his servant's great debt and how that servant went out and refused to forgive his fellow servant, so the king withdrew his forgiveness. The servant was thrown into jail. We should also understand the effects of unforgiveness on our heart.

Unforgiveness blocks all the work of the Spirit in us. Love cannot survive in a heart possessed by unforgiveness. Neither can any of the fruit of love, such as kindness and generosity. That heart is in danger of becoming as hard as stone. Jesus made it sound simple because it really is a simple matter:

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)

It is deciding to love instead of hate. It is deciding that if Jesus could forgive us of all our sins we can easily forgive the comparably small things people do against us. It is putting the spiritual ahead of the physical. It is understanding that emotions require the discipline that comes with love. Forgiveness requires us to realize and accept that love dictates the need for us to put another person's well being over any concern for ourselves. That is what Jesus did on the cross and he did it to the extreme. If Jesus could suffer as he did for our forgiveness, how can we not suffer a little to forgive those who harm us?

Forgiveness is the message of the cross. Forgiveness must be the theme of our lives.

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