Look to the Cross.iv

Look to the Cross.iv August 12, 2020

Do we look for a way to start the evangelistic conversation, or do we start with an end in mind?


These are some questions that arise from time to time regarding the suffering of the Messiah.

This quote is from the Nicene Creed, and the material is adapted from section four of the syllabus (*see note).

. . . suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell.

Who says Jesus wasn’t rich?

This is a brief question that we often equate with the suffering Messiah.  I have heard cases presented either way, but my questions would be, is Jesus really poor in the way we think of someone who is destitute and homeless?

Are His needs taken care of?

He spends most of His life as a tradesman, a carpenter.  Without the burden of providing for a family, does He save for His three years of ministry?

Are His disciples equally poor?  We know Peter, James, and John are probably successful merchants in the fishing industry.  Of course Matthew may have some finances available as a tax collector.

Then there are the women who attend to Jesus, anointing Him at His burial.  Luke 8.1-3 states that there are Disciples and close women traveling with Jesus.  One of them is “Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza” (NRSV).  These women provide for Jesus and the Disciples.

Also there are probably other families like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary who house and look after Jesus and His followers.  If one holds to the view that Jesus is poor, it is certainly one more way He engages every aspect of humanity.

Who says Jesus wasn’t rich?

If one holds to this view that is slightly different, is there a lesson to be taught that God provides for the work of the Kingdom?

Was Christ literally abandoned?

Jesus cries, “‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15.34; Matt 27.46, quoting Ps 22.1).”

Thomas Oden poses a question that I would raise as well.  “But was he forsaken by his heavenly Father, as the verse seems to imply?”  Oden takes the stance that, “his cry from the cross did not imply a literal or ultimate abandonment.”

I concur with the sentiment that through our Lord’s sense of abandonment, believers can still find hope in the dark hours.

On the other hand, is there a way that the Father literally turns His back on the sin that is presently being placed upon the crucified Lord (1 Peter 2.24)?

Is it possible that Jesus is so in-tune with the Father and Spirit that He senses a moment when they hide their face to sin?

Do we know when we are not sensitive to God?

There are a couple examples that come to mind of people in the Hebrew Bible who do not sense that God has left them.

Judges 16.20 states that through a series of compromises, including breaking his Nazrite vow, Samson awakes without realizing that the Lord had left him.

In 1 Samuel 16.14-15, the Spirit leaves Saul.  His servants end up pointing it out to him.

I offer these examples, and there may be more, of people who are not sensitive to God’s presence.

Is it possible that Jesus is so sensitive in His relationship within the Trinity, that He picks up on some moment of disconnect that may be necessary, as He takes on all the sins of the world? 

How do we communicate the cross in various contexts?

Or what is the point of explaining the cross if there is no perceived need for it?

Once original sin, guilt, and shame is understood, then communal and personal sins may be easily understood.  The need for Christ and cross may become apparent.

Do we look for a way to start the evangelistic conversation, or do we start with an end in mind?

And by an end, one meaning could be a telos.

Timothy Tennent teaches in ways that might be helpful in this regard, especially in relation to Romans 5.12-19.  He discusses the public nature of atonement, social and relational aspect of atonement, and process of Christian conversion.

We may not consider original sin, repentance, forgiveness, grace, and righteousness to be a public or community endeavor.  However, there are plenty of cultures globally who do interpret the Bible through their combined social milieu.

We believe righteousness leads to justification as Romans 5.18 states.  However, many believe that living out righteousness is the start of something new, but the Douay-Rheims reads:

Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life.

The operative words are righteousness (NRSV) and/or justice (Douay-Rheims).  To understand these words, we would do well to look at shalom in the Hebrew Bible, which we typically only equate with peace, but it is a surprising Word study.  The concept is a little more communal than we are comfortable with, because we often want to be justified, but it is definitely a good work to engage in the righteousness/justice/shalom of God that reaches far beyond our comfort zone.

The point is that there are cultures centered around individual and/or community mindsets.  Perhaps if I could relate the story of the cross, as someone would probably see it in Christ’s time, I may be able to cross some of these contextual barriers, and also find myself crossing a line that may lead to new followers.

How do we communicate the cross in various contexts?

Meet Jared

* adapted from Kevin Kinghorn, “The Syllabus.iv” (Basic Christian Doctrine, Asbury Theological Seminary, 2017).

4. suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell.

  • Oden, 365-442 (e-book: Book 2 (The Word of Life), chpts. 9-10)
  • Boyd and Eddy, 7, 13
  • Tennent, 77-101

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