This article is part of a series looking at the Oxymoronic names of God and how understanding them helps us to live as Christians in a fallen world. Please click here to read the introductory article and to find links to other articles in the series.
Well, this is it, the crux of Christianity. If Jesus weren’t a crucified saviour there would be nothing to believe in except some wise teachings. But He is that greatest of oxymorons, a hero that died, and came back to glorious life. He is still the great ‘I am’, His death at the hands of the Roman authorities was not the end.
You couldn’t make it up.
No other religion has a central figure that gives up everything, even their own life, for the sake of others. Even Jesus’ return to life is different. He doesn’t come back with armies ready to conquer the world but instead appears to regular folk. He leaves them to tell the world about his victory over death, before returning to His Father. In the course of history, it would be easy to overlook what He achieved, yet His story is still told, there is never-ending power in His actions.
There are many theories and definitions to explain what Jesus achieved by being crucified. He was sacrificed for us, performed substitutionary atonement and was the Lamb of God. Yet, no matter what you call it, or what the theological ins and outs were, His was a long and torturous death. He suffered. We are saved because he bore the penalty of sin. A practical solution that was painful, necessary, and real.
A different kind of hero
Jesus’ death and resurrection do not only seem shocking to us but were a surprise to those who knew Him at the time. They were expecting a different kind of hero too.
One of Jesus’ followers, Simon, was a zealot. They were the domestic terrorists of the day, ready and willing to use the sword to overthrow the Roman occupation and end the oppressive taxation of the Jewish people. He may have been anticipating that Jesus would become a military leader and would evict the Romans forcibly.
Simon was not alone in expecting more action. On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem while the crowds shouted His praise. They identified him as the Son of David, their revered warrior King from centuries earlier. Were they also hoping that Jesus would oust Herod and reclaim the throne?
A law abiding citizen?
The Pharisees were similarly looking forward to the arrival of the Messiah, but they did not recognise that Jesus was the promised one. Instead, they expected a rule follower who would enforce their unnecessary and burdensome laws of purity. Jesus was no follower of earthly rules, rather He came to fulfil the law as the crucified saviour.
In John 4 there is an interesting (and hard to interpret encounter) between Jesus and a government official. The official approaches Jesus because his son is dying and asks for him to be healed. Jesus rebukes him in verse 48, saying ‘Unless you people are dazzled by a miracle, you refuse to believe’. It seems the government official was treating Jesus like a genie in a bottle – desiring to be blessed, yet not believing who Jesus really was. This cuts closest to home, do I too think of Jesus as someone who does things for me, rather than simply loving, adoring, and believing in Him?
There is one character in the Bible who seems to know Jesus better than any other of the others and she appears to have much more insight about what He may be up to. This person is Mary, Jesus’ Mother. Shortly after the angel Gabriel tells her she is to bear the son of God, she authors the beautiful words of The Magnificat, describing God’s promises and what Jesus will do. Here are the words from Luke 1:50 onwards in the New Living Translation:
He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.The Magnificat in Luke 1
For all this talk of thrones and generations, Mary also knows that Jesus cares about everyday matters. Later, at the wedding Cana (John 2), she suspects Jesus is capable of more when she informs Him that their hosts have run out of wine. Her advice to the servants is to do whatever He tells them. What gave her this inkling that Jesus could perform miracles? Had he told he plainly or had her life been so strange up to this point that she was willing to be surprised again.
The biggest shocks came later in her life when she tragically watched Jesus, her son, die a painful death on the cross. What must she have thought? Did she still have hope? Her joy when she saw Him raised from the dead must have been ecstatic. How I would love to talk with Mary about all these things, her life was such a rollercoaster.
What are you expecting from Jesus?
Someone to fight your battles? Do you want Him to join your side and settle political disputes once and for all? Are you seeking a law follower who plays by your rules? Or, are you hoping for a genie to do miracles for you? Can I suggest that you follow Mary’s example and prepare yourself to be surprised by Jesus? It is the biggest and best adventure!
Help me Lord to seek and know the real Jesus, the Crucified Saviour. Surprise me and lead me on the adventure you have prepared for me.
These words were written by Godfrey Birtill and sum up Jesus action on the cross beautifully:
When I stop at the cross
I can see the love of God
But I can’t see competition
I can’t see hierarchy
I can’t see pride or prejudice
or the abuse of authority
I can’t see lust for power
I can’t see manipulation
I can’t see rage or anger
or selfish ambition
But I can’t see unforgiveness
I can’t see hate or envy
I can’t see stupid fighting
or bitterness, or jealousy.
I can’t see empire building
I can’t see self-importance
I can’t see backstabbing
Or vanity or arrogance.
I see surrender, sacrifice, salvation,
humility, righteousness, faithfulness, grace, forgiveness
Love Love Love……..
When I Stop!….at the cross
I can see the love of God.Copyright Godfrey Birtill http://elyrics.net
To return to the Oxymoronic God series of articles please click here.
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