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At Cross Purposes
by Tom Goodman
January 6, 2016

They wanted Jesus but not the cross.  It's a parable for our times.

A few years ago thieves snatched an 8-foot statue of Jesus off a crucifix in Detroit's Church of the Messiah.  Police suspect that the thieves had assumed that the image of Jesus was made of copper and robbed it to sell as scrap.  They didn't see any value to the cross and left it behind.

As I said:  A parable for our times.  A lot of people prefer Jesus without the cross.

But while many may respect Jesus as a great moral teacher, his teaching is only a small part of what the original Christians considered important.  As you read through the Gospels, the account of three years of teachings and miracles moves quickly.  Then the writers slow down to linger over the details of the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection.  The events of that single week dominate the four New Testament Gospels, taking up two-fifths of Matthew, three-fifths of Mark, a third of Luke and half of John.  I recall one of my seminary professors saying that the Gospels were essentially "Passion narratives with extended introductions."  The word "passion" traditionally means "suffering," and clearly the four Gospels consider Christ's Passion the most important part of the story.

The centrality of the cross shows up in our artistic designs and architecture today.  Judaism is identified by the Star of David, Islam by the crescent moon, and Buddhism by the dharma wheel; but Christianity is identified by the cross.  Why?

Across the next four Sundays we're going to look at four biblical images that explain why Jesus died for those he would call to himself.  We'll go to the altar, the market, the courtroom, and the laundry.  Each of those images reveals the meaning of Christ's death:

The Altar.  Christ absorbed God's holy anger that burns against our impurity.

The Market.  Christ bought us for himself.

The Courtroom.  Christ exchanged moral records with us to enable us to pass the Judgment Day.

The Laundry.  Christ washed us clean.

Don't be like those Detroit thieves who wanted a Jesus without the cross.  P.T. Forsythe said, "You do not understand Christ till you understand his cross."  Join us at the foot of the cross this Sunday at 10.


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