I’m confident that none of us would have anticipated spending Easter the way we do this year. Despite the difficulty of working through this crisis and the challenges it may bring, I am encouraged in how people are coming back to that which is important which is relationships. Another encouraging fact is people engaging in prayer groups, online church services and many other forms of encouragement. This makes me think about Easter and how sometimes we go through life leaving important parts of the story lay on the side of the road. One such part is the Cross. Many of us dearly love the teachings of Jesus with all their rebellious love, extravagant grace and audacious freedom. And yet often we don't want to talk about the cross. It's an unfortunate end to the story of our great teacher, and so we play up the teachings and play down the blood and the guts and the death.
But there is no "Christ" without the cross. Don't take my word for it. Take it from Jesus Himself: Matthew 16:13-17 "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?' They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' ‘But what about you?' he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?' Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven ...''
Well done, Peter. That's the right answer I hear Jesus say. Amidst the wealth of confusion about the identity of Jesus, you nailed it. So right are you, in fact, that your answer could not have come exclusively by your own intuition or intellect—it was a gift from God Himself. But Peter did not understand the implications of calling Jesus the Messiah, or the Christ: Matthew 16:21-23 "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!' he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns'".
Peter wanted a cross-less Christ. A great teacher. A charismatic leader. But a dead one? A suffering one? Unthinkable. That can't be right. But according to Jesus, the very idea that He might be Christ and yet not face the cross is blasphemous. An idea with demonic origins. It cannot be so. Jesus won't stand for it. If you take the cross away from Jesus, you strip Him of His mission. You devalue His life. You nullify His authority. And you stand against His crowning triumph and glory. Jesus withstood the taunts of the soldiers. He was silent before the mocking crowd and the preening government officials. But He will not remain silent when someone tries to separate Him from the very reason He came to earth in the first place. There is no such thing as a cross-less Christ the same way there is no value in a Christ on the cross with no death or resurrection that followed.
I pray that as we aspire to have a deeper relationship with Christ that we will accept and embrace the whole truth that and not just the parts that fit our scope or framework. May we reset our thinking by allowing the whole truth of His word to become our whole truth.
Blessing to all.
Neels Janse van Rensburg
Chief Executive Officer Bible Society New Zealand