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The cross is a free choice!

30 March 2015 No Comment

We are approaching Easter, the most important feast of the year for Christians, because we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The world has largely managed to secularize Christmas, replacing most references to the birth of Jesus with gift shopping, decorations, and so on, but thank God it finds it harder to eliminate the memory of the resurrection of Christ from Easter, although it tries to with bunnies and chocolate eggs.

shadow-of-crossLast year we meditated on the meaning of the “life, death and resurrection” of Jesus, and what this means for us today. This year, as we approach Easter and travel with Jesus and his disciples towards Jerusalem, where he will be arrested and hanged to the cross, we would like to reflect on what’s revealed in the Gospels regarding his free choice of the cross.

This is important, because in the Gospels we find important truths to be applied in our daily lives, if we want to experience the joy that Jesus promised us in His word: These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

One of the deepest truths that has always struck me personally, when meditating on the “Passion of the Christ“, is that, in all that happened to him from the time of his arrest until his death on the cross, Jesus was never a victim! In fact, before they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus said: I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and  power to take it again “(John 10: 17-18).

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The cross was a free choice of Christ! Opponents of Christianity, especially those of other religions who deny His divinity, they argue that Jesus could not have been the Son of God, because, if He was, His Father would have intervened to spare him the atrocious suffering of the cross! They interpret the death of Jesus on the cross as a “defeat”, because they think in human terms and cannot understand God’s ways and will!

His own disciples found it hard to understand this choice and, when “Jesus began to show them that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men ‘” (Matt. 16: 21-23).

Jesus told them that “it was necessary for him to be killed and be raised again the third day” and that, although he knew that in Jerusalem they would hang Him on the cross, this was his free choice! Later, when he appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, Jesus said to them, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me”. Then He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24: 44-46).

Jesus had to “open their understanding” so they could understand the Scriptures and be able to see why it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.” In other words, if God does not open our mind with a divine revelation, the death and resurrection of Christ is incomprehensible for our human reason that wants to analyze everything instead of trusting the truths revealed by God’s word.

Even the divinity of Christ is a deep truth that cannot be comprehended by the human mind without a divine revelation! When Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'” (Matthew 16: 15-17).

Even the Apostle Paul, before falling from his horse and having a vision of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, he could not comprehend “the followers of the Way” and “breathed threats and slaughter against the disciples” (Acts 9:1-5). Paul needed a divine revelation to open his mind to the truth. Later he wrote: “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” (1Cor. 1: 18).

If God does not open our minds to help us understand the Scriptures, we can read His word and listen to sermons on the truths of God, but we will not be able to understand what He’s trying to tell us! One of David’s most important prayers was, Open my eyes that I may see the wonders of Thy law” (Psalm 119: 18).

To understand why Jesus chose the cross, we must ask the Lord to open our minds and our eyes to see “the things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, but that God has prepared for those who love Him. God has revealed them to us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1Cor. 2: 9).

The cross is a free choice! It is not, as some think, a daily suffering that we must endure, because there is nothing else to do. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Following Jesus is a choice! You are not forced to do it, but if you decide to follow Jesus and be His disciple, then you are choosing to take up your cross. It’s a free choice! But it has great rewards! “For the joy that was set before him, Jesus chose the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 2).

jesus_walking1There’s a great joy that is set before each one of us who have chosen to take up our cross and follow Jesus! Just like spouses must renew their commitment to each other every day, in order to keep  their relationship alive, we must also renew our choice to follow Jesus and to be His disciples every single day! How about you? You have chosen to follow Jesus?

HAPPY EASTER CELEBRATIONS!

Renato and Patrizia

 

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