On the Way to the Cross 4

For Mary and Peter, life changed over a sword and a few words. The flash of Simeon’s sword opened Mary’s eyes and turned her expectations and participations inside out. The express words of Jesus to Peter stopped him dead in his tracks about how the Messiah would usher in the kingdom. We might say it this way: Lent backed up into the very fabric of the lives of both Mary and Peter and led them forward to a day that made no sense at the time.

Our question: Does the specter of Good Friday accompany our every step or do we push it off until Good Friday? I suggest for your consideration this thought: The Cross guides the life of the Christian and Christian life is not Christian if it is not shaped by the Cross. Mary and Peter struggled with the ever-looming presence of the Cross, and perhaps we do too.

Mary learned when she crossed the threshold of the Temple from an old man with the name of Simeon (she eventually had a boy named Simeon) that her son would cause the rise and falling of many — and she must have wondered what that would mean and how it would happen and which side would she end up on — and then she heard it: the flash of Simeon’s sword (Luke 2:34-35).

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
That sword would come to mean the Cross of Jesus; she would be there; she would see him crucified; she would know the pain of the crucified one; and that cross would also transform her own spirituality.

But that transformation took time for Mary. Like Peter, she would fight Jesus.

Peter once came to the brilliant, stunning, and courageous confession that he was convinced Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Here it is:

“31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life* will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Peter, too, struggled with the Cross.

Lent is the time when we are to learn to embrace the Cross, not just as a Good Friday saving instrument, but as the paradigm for our life — at which we find forgiveness and out of which we learn to live.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • RJS

    Given the “hot” topics today you probably won’t get many comments on this one – but I have really liked this series and the challenge to think about what it means to follow Christ and embrace the cross (and resurrection).

  • SET

    1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
    Sometimes, for me, it is difficult to embrace the cross when I consider what it represents – my deceit, my dishonesty, my lack of faith, my selfishness – all taken on by Christ. This verse reminds me that the cross is truly my transformation, and I must embrace it and accept all that it represents. A most challenging struggle!! As I have heard said many times: “Santification is a process.”

  • BeckyR

    Scot,yeh.

  • http://beyondwordsworth.com Beyond Words

    Thank you, Scot.
    It just occurred to me the other day, teaching girls in youth group about the ways Jesus was/is the intersection between God’s realm and ours, that the cross quite graphically intersects both realms–and with the resurrection, bridges the gap forever.
    RJS, I like what you said about embracing the cross and the resurrection. We must embrace both to grasp the victory of Jesus.

  • http://www.allenpaulweaveriii.com Allen Paul Weaver III

    I’m not sure where I’m going with my thoughts, but I decided to share them anyway. My pastor said not long ago, (I’m paraphrasing), “the cross by itself does not redeem us. It is the fact that Jesus got on the cross and shed his blood for us that redeems us. All the other persons who were crucified on a Roman cross brought no redemption.” In thinking about Christ and the cross, I think about the One who was guiltless taking our place, taking our suffering, taking our shame, so that we, if we believe would be free. Christ’s crucifixion was unique from all others. And yet, Jesus tells us that if we are to pursue him, then we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him. What does it truly mean for me to take up my cross? I wrestle with this at times. Take up the calling that is on my life? Deny the selfish aspect of my existence that does not want to suffer and submit? Deny the fearful aspects that do not want to take the journey God is leading me to take? Deny the prideful aspect that says I can make the journey all by myself – in my own power? That I know everything already? Perhaps at the heart of Jesus saying, “take up your cross and follow me” is this (and this just came to mind as I am typing) if we are taking up our cross, then there is some place that we are to take it to and… when we get there, it will most likely be propped in the ground and we’ll be crucified on it… We will stand in the gap, as forgiven and redeemed children of God, to ensure that others who are not will see God’s love for them and come and yield their lives to Him. We are the Body of Christ. “If we suffer with Christ, we will reign with Christ.” (Romans 8:17)

  • http://www.communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard

    Thanks, Scot. A challenge to live out every day. And to learn to live it out better, through everything. But that’s where we find resurrection life and God. Though we need to keep treading well, even when it seems we’re lost or down. Treading well this path of the cross of Jesus.

  • RJS

    My comment at the top – from (wow!) six years ago still stands.

    The last statement is powerful.
    Lent is the time when we are to learn to embrace the Cross, not just as a Good Friday saving instrument, but as the paradigm for our life — at which we find forgiveness and out of which we learn to live.


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