Monday, September 25, 2017

Reconciliation: The Language of the Cross

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Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened it to the

cross.  It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING

OF THE JEWS.  . . . and the sign was written in

Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.           

 -John 19:19, 20b

 

. . . so from now on we regard no one from a worldly

point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this

way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,

he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through

Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God

was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting

men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the

message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s

ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

-2 Corinthians 5:16-20-

 

We hardly need to open the pages of the Bible to learn of the world’s desperate need for reconciliation.  We find it portrayed in audio and visual messaging with boundless graphics. Either our  world is on the verge of self-destruction, or (to recall an expression of Evangelist Billy Graham) it is about to come to Christ by process of elimination!  Indeed, there is not much wiggle room between these alternatives.  In the Battle of Lake Erie, American naval commander Oliver Hazard Perry, announced, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”[1]   But presently we can hardly agree as to who the enemy is–or who it is that poses the greatest threat to society–or (thankfully) even the color of his (her) skin?  Is it a maniacal individual, a duly elected leader, or the media itself?  The truth just may be that we have engaged the enemy and they are us!  

But let us go back a couple thousand years to an occasion when the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons “by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” [2]  Knowing their thoughts, the Master spoke,

Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.  If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself.  How then can his kingdom stand?  And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out?  So then, they will be your judges.  But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. [3]

Within the context of this teaching, Jesus stated, “. . . I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” [4]

Who was the real culprit on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion?  Was it Pontius Pilate?  Was it the Jews?  If so, which group bore the greatest responsibility–the strict Pharisees or the secular  Sadducees?  What about the disciples themselves who hardly displayed courage at the arrest and trial of their Master?  Certainly Judas betrayed his Master.  Concerning him, Jesus stated, “It would be better for him if he had never been born.”  But the outspoken Simon Peter was hardly a profile of confessional courage.  When the pressure was on, Simon Peter denied our Lord, not once, but on three separate occasions.  Even so, he hardly caught the Lord off guard. [5]  In the final analysis, who was responsible for putting Jesus of Nazareth on a Roman cross?  Scripture informs us that “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to become sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” [6]   The “righteousness of God”–that is a description of the true church–the one which God established and continues to display before a sinful world. 

Recently, a retired pastor was questioned as to what church he belonged. Much to the questioner’s befuddlement, the retired pastor replied, “I belong to the church of which Jesus Christ is the Head.”  This brings to mind a chorus that many of us used to sing:           

God is building a house,

God is building a house,

God is building a house that will stand.

He is building by His plan

With the living stones of man,

God is building a house that will stand.

 

God is building a house,

God is building a house,

God is building a house that will stand.

With apostles, prophets, pastors,

With evangelists and teachers,

God is building a house that will stand.

 

Christ is head of this house,

Christ is head of this house,

Christ is head of this house that will stand.

He abides in its praise,

Will perfect it in its ways,

Christ is head of this house that will stand.

 

We are part of this house,

We are part of this house,

We are part of this house that will stand.

We are called from every nation

To enjoy His full salvation,

We are part of this house that will stand.

(Author Unknown)

To continue, righteousness is not a mere possibility in this broken world; in the true church it is a visible reality.  Yes, there is evidence for our justification by faith alone!  But at its root it is not a righteousness based upon our performance.  Rather our “performance” proceeds from the performance of Christ “at the right time” in the midst of a broken, ungodly world–and in the face of the outward guise of organized “religion.”  Are you a confessing member of that church which is Christ’s body, or do you settle for mere mechanical outward form?

Much to the discomfort of the Jewish leaders, Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, made sure that the ancient universal world got the message that Jesus of Nazareth was the “King of the Jews” by posting that information on the cross in “Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.”  Are we communicating the good news in language that our world notices and understands?  Could it be that the current “shake-up” is simply God’s way of helping us get with the program?

-Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the New International Version.-

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About the Author

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            David C. Brand, Contributing Editor, is a retired pastor and Christian educator.  He and his wife Marilyn have four grown children and eight grandchildren.  In addition to books Dave has self-published, his Th.M. thesis at Westminster Seminary was published by the American Academy of Religion in 1991 via Scholars Press under the title: Profile of the Last Puritan: Jonathan Edwards, Self-Love, and the Dawn of the Beatific via Scholars Press.  He enjoys ice-skating and canoeing.

 

[1] https://www.nps.gov/stories/met-the-enemy-4.htm

[2] Matthew 12:24

[3] Matthew 12:25-28

[4] Matthew 12:36-37

[5] Matthew 26:34

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:21

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