In his book, The Cruciality of the Cross, P. T. Forsyth wrote, “Christ is to us just what his cross is. All that Christ was in heaven or on earth was put into what he did there…Christ, I repeat, is to us just what his cross is. You do not understand Christ til you understand his cross.”
What did Jesus want us to understand about his cross? And why did he “endure the cross, scorning its shame” because of the “joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2)? It was because Jesus knew that when he would be “lifted up” he would draw all people to himself.
It is an insult and a source of anguish for Jesus that the human race is broken in so many ways–scattered, disrupted, and alienated. Left in pieces. Something was needed to draw people together, reconciled first to God and then to each other. When Jesus was lifted up, when his friends and followers stood stunned, and when even his bitterest enemies focused on his waning life, then he became the focal point of all human vision. And we have not been able to look away from the cross since. Think of all the places you see crosses today, and consider that even though we do not cringe at its horror when we glance at it up high on a church steeple or dangling loosely on a gold chain around a woman’s neck, we still choose to focus on it. How can we not?
The crossroad of Golgotha was a great gathering of a scattered humanity. Some walked away no less scattered than before. But a marker had been planted on a hill that would keep us piecemeal people looking toward him and what he did that was utterly different from what any martyr had ever done. Was he a mock “king of the Jews,” as the insulting sign placed above his head said? A Messiah who could not save himself? Or could he truly respond to that dying criminal’s request, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom,” with “Today, you will be with me in paradise”?
It’s hard for us to know how that criminal who died next to Jesus could have had faith in Jesus on that day when Romans soldiers ripped and bloodied him, but he did. He didn’t have the advantage that we do of seeing Jesus in his death and in his resurrection. And that makes it all the more remarkable that when that man said “remember me,” Jesus promised him paradise.
Do you ever have days when you fear being forgotten?
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Complimentary DVD available now.