Boletim dos Obreiros

The Message of the Cross

"The message of 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 – NKJV)

Many moving messages will be heard proclaiming around the world during the days of the so-called "holy week", echoing various concepts concerning the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some will be just rhetoric and empty of spiritual content. Others will be valuable, because their focus is on the benefits of eternal value coming from the Cross.

Nothing in the history of mankind truly transcends the importance of the dreadful moments of which the Lord Jesus was a protagonist on Calvary! It is on Calvary that the remarkable and eternal divine purpose of Redemption is realised. Paul emphasises the importance of the "message of the cross" when he states: "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God".

The sublime poetry by William Anglin, paraphrased below into English, enhances very appropriately the blessings which result from the Cross:

Blessed is the Cross of Jesus
Most Holy place for me!
Beneath its shadow I will rest,
And contrite meditate
On my beloved Saviour's love
There suffering for me,
With love infinite doing all,
To pay for sins my own.
Yes, rest and peace are flowing
From there upon my heart,
For on the cross for me was made
Atonement full, complete.
The cross is always glory
And theme of praise for me
And those who place their trust on Him
Who died to save their souls.
There on the cross of Jesus
I see the greatest sign
Of God's compassion on mankind
And His path for us all
To open up the way to Him
And Heav'n where we shall meet
Our Saviour glorious on His throne
And praise Him evermore.

(H&C 574).

The glorious "message of the cross", enhanced by Paul in all his ministry, is expounded in a masterly way by Peter in the expressive picture he paints of Calvary (1 Peter 2:21-24). Let us contemplate it, discerning seven aspects of the blessings which flow from Calvary.

  1. THE VOLUNTARY SUFFERING OF CHRIST - "Christ also suffered for us" (v. 21). On Calvary Christ displays the supreme example of who suffers harm because He always did good. In Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 we find a remarkable prophetic exposition of this behaviour of the Lord Jesus, emphasising this fundamental aspect of the Redemptive Work. His experience as Suffering-Servant to be an effective Saviour, transforms the sufferings of His followers from a shame into a privilege! But what above all exalts His condition as Sufferer is His willingness to take this posture Himself. He was the "voluntary Sufferer", by love, increasing the value of the Work which he carried out for our Redemption. Thus he became also a worthy example for us, so that we may follow His steps (v. 21). As Peter says, if we bear suffering for having done good, this is laudable before God, for this is our calling (v. 20).
  2. THE ENABLING HOLINESS OF CHRIST - "… Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth" (v. 22). The Word of God declares in an expressive and unequivocal form the sinless character of Christ, without leaving any possibility of exception. And it is this fact which fully "enabled" Him to eternally validate our Redemption. Although clad in humanity His nature was faultless and, in His experience of life, he never sinned, "He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15). This aspect brings with it the precious lesson of the essential practice of holiness in our experience of life. Holiness is the indispensable "credential" so that our service to God may be faithful and accepted by Him, or we risk being considered hypocrites by Christ and being reproved because of this (Matthew 23:27).
  3. THE MILD ATTITUDE OF CHRIST - "… when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten" (v. 23a). Reprisal, retaliation and revenge is the temperament of man. No-one wants to "take an insult home". What an incomparable beauty the Lord displays on Calvary, manifesting His "mild attitude" in the face of such injustice and wickedness, such a spiteful and unmerited punishment and such atrocious suffering which were inflicted upon Him! In all His ministry this was the characteristic of His behaviour. May this lovely lesson serve to make our character reveal the beauty of Christ. Let us accept His precious advice in Matthew 11:29 "learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart". Humble gentleness is the attitude which manifests authentic spirituality.
  4. THE SUBLIME SUBMISSION OF CHRIST - "… committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (v. 23b). In His ministerial life the Lord Jesus leaves us remarkable examples of His complete submission to the will of His Father, in the solemn fulfilment of the mission entrusted to Him. See John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; Matthew 26:42. Nothing, absolutely nothing, made Him deviate from the solemn target of Redemption, no matter the high price He had to pay to get there - Calvary! But what is most moving to us is to gaze upon the silent submission of our Lord on the culminating moment of His vile judgement, of His passion and of His death on the cross! He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges righteously. May this other precious lesson of Calvary, the "sublime submission of Christ", the incentive for us to live in total submission to the will of the Lord, no matter the circumstances, for us to open space to the glorious way of victory in Christian life.
  5. THE EFFICIENT VICARIAL SUPPORT OF CHRIST - "… Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (v. 24a). We don't know if Christ was a physically strong man. In John 19:17 we read that He, carrying His cross, went out to the place called Calvary. But in the other Gospels we read that a man of Cyrene, called Simon, was compelled to carry His cross. This may lead us to conclude that His body was too frail to carry the weight of the cross. Though His body couldn't carry the cross, he took upon Himself all the weight of our sins on Calvary! Glory to God for that! Peter shows here the "vicarial" character of the atonement. Christ, like the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament, died for our sins; the innocent for the guilty. The atonement was complete, Divine justice was satisfied, the price was paid, eternal redemption of the sinner was made possible! This aspect of the "message of the cross" gives us assurance of this "eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12). Let us joyfully live this blessed hope!
  6. CHRIST, SUPPLIER OF SPIRITUAL VITALITY - "… that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness" (v. 24b). To "live for righteousness" is the purpose of God for each one of his redeemed. Isaiah says that "He shall see the labour of His soul, and be satisfied." As a result of the death of Christ on the cross, Christians are positionally dead to sin, so they may live a new life and present themselves before God as instruments of justice (Romans 6:11-13). This is what God expects of each one of us who calls himself a Christian. This "living for justice" adequately defines itself as the manifestation of "spiritual vitality". In John 10:10 the Lord stated that He came so that we might have life in abundance. The "message of the cross" makes us responsible, as new creatures, children of God, to live for justice, displaying "spiritual vitality". Christ took our sins on His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for justice. He is the Supplier of this new life.
  7. CHRIST, THE SUFFICIENT SUPERVISOR - "you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (v. 25). The concept raised there by Peter, of Shepherd and Overseer, at the close of the beautiful picture of Calvary he introduces to us, is related to the prophecy in Isaiah 53 concerning stray sheep. The sheep had strayed from the Shepherd and now returned to the Good Shepherd, who is Christ. The Lord said that the Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep (John 10:11). Calvary is the irreversible evidence of this statement. There we have the comforting message of the restoration of the sheep to the fold of the Good Shepherd, but the message of Calvary also confirms the guarantee of constant and "sufficient supervision" by the Lord Jesus in the new and blessed condition of His sheep. It is what He declares in John 10:27-28: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." How good it is to know that we always count on this "sufficient supervision" and constant assistance.

Let us contemplate these expressive aspects of the picture of Calvary, wonderfully painted by Peter. May the "message of the cross" seen in it cause us to manifest each day in our lives the beauty of Christ, in the enjoyment of unspeakable blessings which flow from Calvary!