At the cross

Long habits of self loathing or low self esteem die hard and some mornings the black dog mood hits you before you even wake. Before you raise your lazy head from the sunken pillow a little scrap of sad creeps under the door and shakes you awake with its whispering doom. Ambushed by a depression you gave up long ago, you have a strategy to rout your combatant before he can even touch the God blessed waking day ahead.

“Don’t you realise I have power?” said Pilate to Jesus. And Jesus answered, “You have no power over me.” (John 19.10-11)

In small skirmishes fought out on the battle grounds of our minds, we are never the victims. We found surprising safety in a place of terrifying violence, namely the cross. If we are safe there we are safe anywhere.We were not scared to face the cruelty of that place with all its harsh realities because we know the man who hung on that cross owned that place and that time, as an episode in the unfolding story where all of the world’s sin would be silenced forever. Silenced in the cry, “It is done!”, entombed in three cold grave days, then drowned out by the roar of a rock rolled away from the mouth of a darkness that had threatened to consume God himself.

This song has been keeping me company through a week that seemed a little hard.

 

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolises divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours….’ ‘The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.”

John R. W. Stott

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