March 2012 - Vol. 58.
For our sake
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;Every time we pray the Nicene Creed, we profess our faith in Jesus Christ and his saving deeds for us. These few sentences summarize the whole truth of our redemption. But the words have become so familiar that they trip off our tongues, almost without thought. We have memorized them and easily say them by heart, so to speak. But how deeply do we really understand their meaning? How can we truly grasp by heart the profound truths they contain?
In this guide, we will read and study Scripture texts that help us fathom Jesus’ tremendous love as revealed through his passion, death, and resurrection. By studying the Scriptures about the meaning and power of the cross and prayerfully contemplating our crucified Lord we will come to know the depths of his mercy and compassion toward us, sinners undeserving of such sacrificial love.
The Paradox of
In words echoing the Creed, Basil clearly and effectively reviews the history of humankind’s redemption, the story of our need for salvation, and how God brought that about through his Son Jesus. Central to our salvation is Christ’s death on the cross: Through his sacrifice, the Son of God conquered sin and Satan, overcame death’s stranglehold on the human race, and restored us to union with our Creator. Jesus’ cross is a greatest of paradoxes: Through his death we have received life. The cross may seem an instrument of torture in the eyes of unbelievers, but to those who do believe, it is the instrument of our salvation. “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
St. Paul was the first to put into writing a “theology of the cross.” In his letter to the church at Corinth, he explained, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.... For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21). What good news it is that God reconciled the world to himself through Christ and does not count our sins and failings against us! But we are forgiven, not because God overlooked our trespasses, but because Christ took them upon himself. Reconciliation with God was won for us at the price of Jesus’ death on the cross. His passion and crucifixion are a stark reminder that our salvation, forgiveness of our sin, is costly.
Not only did the cross bring us eternal life, it also brings us a more abundant life here and now. Jesus “bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). His death on the cross won us victory over our sins – every one of them. Though his cross, Jesus has set us free from all that separates us from our Lord and prevents us from following him: our disobedience, our pride, our anger, and our self-centeredness. In Christ, we die to this “old self,” and in Christ we rise to the new..
Embraced by Christ’s
In the second session we will meet the Risen Lord and examine how his death was not simply a tragedy but also a triumph. Through dying on the cross and rising victoriously, Christ entered into his glory. Overcoming the curse of death that was upon us all, he opened the way for us to share glorious, eternal life with him and the Father.
The first two sessions include many references to texts from the ancient Hebrew Scriptures – the Christian Old Testament. As we study them, we will see that it was “in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) that Jesus passed through all that he did for our sake. And as we come to recognize how Old Testament prophecies and “prefigurements” and “types” are fulfilled in Christ in the New Testament, we will grow in our understanding and appreciation of God and the marvelous plan of salvation his Son has carried out for us.
Allow Paul’s cry, “Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20), which we hear during the Ash Wednesday liturgy, to strike deeply at your heart. He persistently appeals to us not to reject God’s offer of salvation, “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (6:1). “Now” – today, each and every day – is “the acceptable time” for us to return to the Lord, “now is the day of salvation” (6:2) for us. During the forty days of Lent, open your heart to the mystery of the cross and its meaning for you personally. Then, at the Easter Vigil, the night-watch of the resurrection, enter into the joy of Christ’s victory as the church sings its great proclamation, the Exsultet:
This is the night when Christians everywhere,Let us take hold of the life-giving power of the cross so that we can share in the victory that Jesus won for us. Our hope is that on the last day, we will be united with him in his resurrection, healed and transformed in body, mind, and spirit and wholly conformed to his image. “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
...> Related articles: Jesus' Crucifixion: "It Is Finished," by Jeanne Kun
> Freedom from Sin and Death: "A New Creation," by Jeanne Kun
[Excerpted from The Life-Giving Power of the Cross: Sharing in Christ's Victory, by Jeanne Kun (The Word Among Us Press, © 2011). Used with permission. This book can be ordered online.]
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