The gifts of the Master are these: freedom, life, hope, new direction, transformation, and intimacy with God. If the cross was the end of the story, we would have no hope. But the cross isn't the end. Jesus didn't escape from death; he conquered it and opened the way to heaven for all who will dare to believe. The truth of this moment, if we let it sweep over us, is stunning. It means Jesus really is who he claimed to be, we are really as lost as he said we are, and he really is the only way for us to intimately and spiritually connect with God again.
He, the Life of all, our Lord and Saviour, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those other His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognised as finally annulled. A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death's defeat.
The earthly form of Christ is the form that died on the cross. The image of God is the image of Christ crucified. It is to this image that the life of the disciples must be conformed; in other words, they must be conformed to his death (Phil 3.10, Rom 6.4) The Christian life is a life of crucifixion (Gal 2.19) In baptism the form of Christ's death is impressed upon his own. They are dead to the flesh and to sin, they are dead to the world, and the world is dead to them (Gal 6.14). Anybody living in the strength of Christ's baptism lives in the strength of Christ's death.
God has chosen to save the world through the cross, through the shameful andpowerless death of the crucified Messiah. If that shocking event is therevelation of the deepest truth about the character of God, then our whole wayof seeing the world is turned upside down all values are transformed Godrefuses to play games of power and prestige on human terms.
Righteousness and love, law and grace, life and death, as well as time and eternity all intersect at the cross; displaying a divine wisdom that staggers the imagination and leads the humble heart to bow in thankful adoration. To understand the cross of Christ is to understand the heart of God toward a fallen world He wants to save.
Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared' (Luther).
The merciful precepts of Christ will at last suffuse the Code and it will glow with their radiance. Crime will be considered an illness with its own doctors to replace your judges and its hospitals to replace your prisons. Liberty shall be equated with health. Ointments and oil shall be applied to limbs that were once shackled and branded. Infirmities that once were scourged with anger shall now be bathed with love. The cross in place of the gallows: sublime and yet so simple.
We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood,the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.