Cross Reminds Believers of the Cost of Our Forgiveness
(Holy Cross 2015, revised 2018 by Fr. John Gishler)
We are living in a post-Christendom time of “Cross-less Christianity”. Over the years since the Third Century Christian leaders in many places have compromised with political and military leaders to avoid persecution and conflict with popular culture. We have developed a mushy, inoffensive and vague liberal theology of love that denies the whole point of the Gospel. False prophets have convinced us that as long as we don’t offend anyone and are a ‘good person’ we are a Christian and assured of eternal spiritual life. The Readings for Holy Cross Sunday remind us that in spite of our good intentions we are all guilty of rebellion against God in some way – and need a Saviour.
1. Hebrew story reminds us of the consequences of rebellion
Their grumbling was a rebellion against God and God’s servant Moses. Rebellion separates people from their covenant relationship with God. The Ten Commandments define and are ways of testing personal love of God. In the story God allows snakes to bite and kill those who rebelled. The consequence of rebellion in both a death of the relationship and physical death of the rebels.
- The lesson is not that God is harsh and judgemental
- Lesson is that God still loves those who rebel and will create a way for them to come back into Covenant relationship and live
- Jesus used this story to explain who He was and His mission
- Snakes that took away life were transformed into a new way back to right-relationship through repentance and obedience
- Rebels had to repent and believe in God that He would heal them if they obeyed and gazed at the snake on a pole
- Jesus used this to explain His mission on the Cross
- Thing that kills is transformed by God into the thing that saves
- Human disobedience is forgiven because of Jesus obedience
- Forgiveness is conditional on repentance and human obedience in the form of “belief in” what Jesus accomplished
2. How could Jesus die for the sins of the whole world?
Death on a cross was a ‘stumbling block for the Jews’ who remembered their teaching that people hanged on a tree were “cursed” – and could not even begin to understand the Cross. The idea that one man could die for the sins of the whole world was – and still is completely illogical – to everyone, including believers.
- Key is that Jesus is not just a man – God is His biological father – people do not understand Jesus was divine as well
- Just as in the snake story, God added to His Covenant a new provision, a new way for rebels to be restored to Covenant
- Penalty for rebellion against God was death – a life had to be sacrificed to God
- God Himself provided a perfect sacrifice – He came to Earth Himself and fathered Jesus through a human mother
- He gave up His only son by asking Jesus to give up His Human and divine life on the Cross for the sins of the world
- Jesus perfect obedience could pay for all human disobedience
- God made a New Covenant that all “those who believe in Him (Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal spiritual life"
- Just as the Hebrews had to obey God and gaze on the snake on the pole to live physically; Christians have to obey God and believe in what Jesus accomplished on the Cross to have eternal life
3. We need to understand what “believe in Him” means
There is a huge difference between ‘cultural Christians’ and believers. Cultural Christians may know a lot about Jesus, go to church and try to lead a good life loving God and neighbour – but often they have not quite ‘got it’. Close only counts in horse shoes.
- People know about - but may not really BELIEVE IN Jesus.
- “Believe” in the Bible is more like “trust in” or “depend on”
- Story of monk who held boys head underwater – desperate
- “In” – Dative case in Greek = physically inside, connected
- Believe in = depend on Jesus for physical and spiritual life
- Believe in = motivates us to self-sacrificial / agape love
- Example of people at St. Edmunds who are old and tired but still drive to the Food Bank and Clothing Bank to serve others
4. Cross reminds us of the cost of our salvation
- · God the Father asked His only son to give up His life to pay for all human sin guilt
- · Jesus loved His Father and us enough to do this
· Believers understand the cost of the Cross to both the Father and Son, and are overwhelmed by God’s love for us personally