Jesus has been both instructing and illustrating about greatness in the Kingdom and great crowds began to follow him. Most recently he has, for the third time, specifically predicted his death and resurrection, though most did not understand this was the redemptive fulfillment of His life. A sham trial, public beating and mocking, and the death of a condemned criminal among criminals. What is the main point of the cross? A ransom paid, the freeing of a slave, in this case, the slavery of sin and condemnation.
1. The Great Example. ‘Just as the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve’. This is the beginning, middle and end of the gospel message. The purpose of Jesus life, following the instruction to the Zebedee boys and mother wannabes, was ‘whoever wants to be first shall be your slave’. From he instruction that the last shall be first, and the greatest shall be the slave of all, the text moves seamlessly into the work of the cross – Jesus as the example of greatness, looking not to be served, to serve, by his life and death for mankind. This humiliation in the place of, and for the benefit of, his people, must be their example and motivation.
2. The Great Payment - A Ransom Price Paid. ‘and to give his life as a ransom’. A ransom is a price paid to free a slave, common fare and knowledge in the first century. In fact, 70% of the first century church were converted slaves, and this message had to resonate with great joy to the early believers. Because even while physical slavery and bondage continued, they were released from the bondage and condemnation of sin, and restored as children of God and able to follow in the example of Jesus. This was the purpose and climax of the Great Incarnation.
3. The Great Exchange. ‘in the place of many’. And the substitutionary atonement of the cross had as its purpose the standing in the place of the condemned. With great poignancy, Jesus was crucified between two condemned criminals. Jesus lived and died for others, for the many who both had and would believe in Him as their Savior and follow Him as their Lord.
But we live in a post-Christian era, if ever it was Christian. Our country has gone a long way baby, and the trajectory is down. We have had our basic constitutional tenants, our freedoms, our democratic way of life, our status as the country standing for a beacon for others – all challenged in the last 50 years, and the last year this freefall has escalated exponentially. The photograph above was taken on Easter Sunday, 1956, in Manhattan, New York City. America was a different place, back then.
May God give us the grace and wisdom to live with grace and truth in our communities and countries, to speak the truth in love to others, and to never recover from the Kingdom message as siin during this season, and in Jesus.
Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:6-11
- John Moore