Within those early years of the church Paul wrote, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). But there is so much more to this story then just the historical fact that Jesus was crucified.
It is one thing for whirlwind events to have wrapped up Jesus in such a manner that he found Himself being nailed to a cross. It is quite another to grasp that our Messiah lived each day under the constant awareness of His impending grisly death and that He chose to continue to follow the path which would bring Him to the sound of a hammer ringing on a nail to pierce His flesh. Yet, this is the unmistakable message of the New Testament.
Living in an era when Jesus’ travels would probably have taken Him past victims of crucifixion, Jesus clearly understood what it meant to be crucified. He also was fully aware that He would be lifted up. In John 3, which was presumably toward the start of His ministry, Jesus announced to Nicodemus that, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). Toward the end of His ministry Jesus said, “if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself” (John 12:32). John wrote that Jesus said this in order to indicate how He was going to die (John 12:33). Similarly, when Jesus throughout His ministry called people to pick up their crosses and follow Him, He demonstrated that He knew how He would die (Luke 9:23; 14:27).
Perhaps we could gain a new appreciation for Jesus’ life and discover a greater commitment to our Lord if we were to contemplate what it would have been like to have awaken each day realizing crucifixion would envelope us. Remember when Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness offering him the allegiance of all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:5-7)? There within His grasp was part of His goal without the pain of the cross. All nations would recognize Him. But the price involved worshiping Satan. Jesus chose faithfulness to God and the nails rather than the easy, unfaithful short-cut. Do the words, “no man can serve two masters” take on added significance when we hear that phrase echoing from one who lived in the shadow of the cross? Remember the legions of angels which He knew were at His disposal to rescue Him (Matt. 26:53). And yet, He resolutely walked toward that suffering announcing, “No one takes My life from Me. Rather, I lay it down of Myself” (John 10:18).
The path of faithfulness which would take Him to the cross reduced Him to tears and deep anguish (Heb. 5:7; Luke 22:42,44). Yet, it was out of His love for our best interest that He chose the piercing of His hands and feet (Eph. 5:2; 1 John 3:16 Mark 10:45). His life was wrapped up in serving us through the cross (Mark 10:45).
Jesus did not choose the nails so that Christians today could glibly retain sinful habits, nurse grudges or harbor bitterness toward their enemies. He did not willingly choose that gruesome suffering so that the depth of Christian commitment might be a shallow afterthought reserved for one day a week. The cross was at the center of His life and it is to be at the center of ours. “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:15). May we as God?s people continue to grow into His image.
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