What Do you Feel
How often do you stop and think about the cross? Imagine yourself standing under it… what is going through your mind? Ask yourself…
- What do I think about Jesus dying on the cross?
- What do I feel about it?
- Do I believe it?
- Did Jesus die on the cross and rise again?”
- Is it true?
The vast majority of people in our world are surprised that Christians believe in Jesus, that he was crucified for our sins, or in fact for any reason, but especially that he rose from the dead! Where do you stand on the cross of Christ – how do you respond to it?
Do you stand where the disciples stood?
Take yourself back – back into their sandals… Jesus is dead – it’s a few days after the crucifixion – the women have gone to the tomb to prepare the body of Jesus for burial – there’s no sense Jesus might rise – hasn’t even entered their heads.
They are worried, scared, confused, depressed and down hearted – they are afraid and in hiding for the most part – and maybe worse the very thought of going back to a mundane life of fishing or sitting under trees, after three years on the road with Jesus – well it just isn’t all that exciting a prospect.
Luke 24:36-37 “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
Now – fair enough – it’s not at all unreasonable! Dead people don’t pop up in the middle of a conversation – “howdy boys – just thought I’d stop by for a quick bite – I don’t eat much.”
The cross is a startling image – and the resurrection unbelievable. I guess I would have to say, even now after many years as a Christian – that my response is a mixture – joy and thankfulness mixed in with disbelief and wonder. See – I reckon we can imagine the disciples – Jesus appears in their midst from nowhere – terror – “is he a ghost?”! And then the relief… and then the joy and thanksgiving and wonder… how – how is this possible? There are days when that’s exactly what I feel about the resurrection – I have the joy that comes from knowing Jesus and I have disbelief – not unbelief – just the wonder, the surprise, the astounding nature of this event – just wondering “is this really all true?”
Have I staked my life on the right person?
Proof – Alive and Eating
It must have been a unique moment – Jesus standing in front of them flesh and blood –
Luke 24:39 “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
Would you have stuck your fingers in? Can you just imagine them standing around, slack jawed staring at a sight beyond imagination – beyond reason… and yet there he stands? These men must very quickly come to grips with a reality they never expected. They were in hiding – they were demoralised – they did not understand that Jesus would rise. Yet – here before them is the living proof of God’s plans – Jesus alive – not a ghost, not a spirit, not a manifestation, not an apparition… not dead! They can touch his hands and feet and stick their fingers in his side – attractive thought.
But here is proof – if someone had said to them “We’ve just seen Jesus” we know the sort of response they’d have received! We know because they responded in exactly the same way.
Mark 16:9-11 “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.”
Exactly – unbelief! Why would any sane person believe the women – “you’re overwrought – you’re hallucinating.”
But here he is – and he wants to eat – dead people and ghosts don’t eat – living, breathing, eating proof that Jesus is alive – and that he is who he claims to be – he has power over death and he has power over sin – it’s all true.
We can almost hear the gears moving in the disciples brains as they reassess everything they have spent the last three days processing.
Jesus was dead – what do we do now – is he the Messiah – what about the Son of God?
He’s alive – clunk, clunk, clunk – get into gear brain – no longer dead (tick) that means…
- Messiah √
- Son of God √
- Power over death √
- Power over life √
- In charge √
- Worth living for √
- Worth dying for?
Everything they’d questioned is now standing before them in – alive.
And Jesus nails it all home – the proof of the scriptures and Jesus’ own words.
Luke 24:44 “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
He opens their minds – gets inside and starts making it all clear – clearing away the fog, explaining the things they’ve read in the Old Testament – all come true in Jesus – all proven
Luke 24:46-47 “…it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
They’ve seen all this – and will see all of it because they are the first ones who will take it to the nations and proclaim the good news – the final word though is God’s…
Luke 24:49 “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The Holy Spirit of God comes with power – promised in Isaiah 32:15. The book of Acts expands
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
And then a few days later it happens – God provides the proof.
“X” marks the Spot
The thing is – what does all this prove? What is this all about?
Very simply this is the “x” on the treasure map! That great old cliché of every pirate and treasure movie – at the end of the trail on the map is an “x” – here be Captain Jack’s treasure. The treasure in Christianity – the “x” on the map is what God has gone to such lengths to prove – one treasure above all other possibilities.
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s entire plan rested on the shoulders of Jesus on the cross – the very centre of what Christians believe is the cross. Paul writes to the Corinthian Church and pushes the point even further…
1 Corinthians 1:14 “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
The death and resurrection of Jesus brings forgiveness, life, freedom, peace, security and hope – proof and reality – without the death and resurrection we have nothing – the church is meaningless. The trappings of Christianity without the reality of the death and resurrection mean nothing and have no value. In the death and resurrection of the Christ we have all God’s promises wrapped up and delivered as a gift. Jesus’ own words…
Mark 10:45 “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The Christian church constantly faces dangers and threats – the biggest is that we might loose focus on the main game – loose our “x” on the map. Even the disciples lost the focus as they walked with Jesus – Peter’s response to Jesus is to rebuke him – don’t talk such nonsense Lord – and Jesus hammers him – get behind me Satan. It’s easy to loose sight of what we are on about. Paul again to the Corinthians…
1 Corinthians 2:1-3 “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Christians must stand together as God’s people and declare that what is important is the cross of Jesus Christ.
The Cross is the Way
That’s what we must be vigilant about – there is no other way to be saved – there is no other power under heaven by which we can be saved – we must not loose sight of the cross. It is how God got the job done. When His kingdom is finally here – when we see God and rest in his presence for eternity, when we stand before the throne of heaven and receive our inheritance – we will do so only by the cross. Jesus paid for our lives with his.
And it’s not just how God got the job done! It’s how we get the job done. It’s the standard by which we live. I realise we may not have thought of it that way but the cross is meant to define how we live and who we are.
We know about sacrifice for important things – we do it every day – maybe missing a meal to get the kids to sport, giving up the newspaper to spend time with the kids, missing a favourite TV program to go to Bible Study – giving up sleep to get to church and often enough we make far larger sacrifices. The things that we must do instead of the things we would like to do. It’s not always what we want and sometimes we’re grumpy about the whole process but we do it.
The cross, Jesus says, defines us – we are signing on for a life of sacrifice and self-denial. Maybe that makes us cringe a little – maybe we want to shy away from it or we’d rather not talk about – well here in Jesus’ own words…
Mark 8:34-38 “He called the crowd and the disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
A life of sacrifice and self-denial! In our society I am everything – it’s all about me – all about you… pamper yourself, take time out for number one – this is becoming the most important daily task – and self-denial doesn’t look too hot. If it were giving up dessert or that extra block of Cadburys it might be ok – but Jesus is saying follow him – take myself out of the centre and put him in the centre – every action, word, activity, relationship… he declares that I am to stop making ‘me’ the central issue.
The cross is how we are saved… and how we are to live – the standard. It’s about having the mind of Christ, the priorities of God and his kingdom. No longer does money or a nice home or education or family or career rule us – at least in theory – Christ rules. We start asking strange questions when we turn to Christ. WWJD? What would Jesus do in this circumstance? What does God’s word say to me about this? What would God have me do or be or say? When we’re frustrated or angry we’re told to deal with it quickly – unlike the world which says go for the jugular. In fact what we are doing is starting to sacrifice ourselves and our opinions and lifestyle and desires and so on to Christ – what he says goes.
It’s a life long process and we’ll never live perfectly this side of heaven but that is the life we have taken on board. It’s the reason so many people become Christians and then realising the cost stop still and go nowhere.
‘This far God and no further. I’ll give up Sundays, I’ll give money to the church but that’s it – and don’t ask for any more cause your not getting it.’
As far as God’s concerned – that’s just not on.
What will the cross – what does the cross of Jesus mean for you – here and now?
As you face your life and the things that are in your life – how will you be living a life of sacrifice and self-denial?
How true is the cross for you?