My good friend, Ralph Walker, recently gave me a book by Mark Templer entitled The Cross of the Savior. I’ve just begun to read it, but it looks very good. The back cover promises “a fresh perspective on the cross of Jesus.”
“The message of the cross was perplexing to Jews and Gentiles alike–a scandalous stumbling block to the Jews and a meaningless act of self-sacrifice to the Gentiles,” writes Templer. “But to us as Christians it is power and wisdom of God, the focal point of our faith. It is the light that shines in our darkest night. It is the hope that keeps us sane when all are losing their heads. It is our lifeline when we are drowning in the muck. It is our only hope in a dark and sinful world.”
In the first chapter Templer writes about Jesus prayer for the unity of the disciples from John 17 when Jesus petitioned the Father for himself as he faced the cross, for the disciples as they lived in the world, and for all future believers that they might be one. Regarding the later, He prayed…
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:29-23, NASU)
There are several important facts we learn from these verses.
(1) The Cross reminds us that Jesus cares about us. He prayed for us. Not just for himself, or the present day disciples, but for all future disciples. He went to the cross with us in mind. The cross shouts to a cynical, unbelieving word, “Jesus cares!”
(2) The Message of Christ is Embodied in the Cross. Everyone who becomes a Believer will do so through the apostles’ teaching. The gospel. Or as Paul put it “the word of the Cross.” The cross was not just a mere instrument of execution. Nor is it simply a symbol of Christianity. It proclaims a powerful message. A message of faith, hope, and salvation from sin by the blood of Jesus.
(3) The Cross Calls us to oneness in Christ. Templer observes that “Jesus came to this earth to build a community of Believers…” We are a Family. God’s Family. One family.
The Bible affirms that God’s plan in the cross was to destroy the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and make them one in Him (Eph 2:14-17). In fact, all social, economic, gender and racial distinctions are eradicated in the cross. “All are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-29)
(4) The Cross is a Message of Love
The cross is the ultimate expression of God’s unconditional love for all people. But as Templer observes the cross also reminds us that Christians are to be “bound together by an unbreakable love.”
Just a few hours prior to this prayer Jesus taught the disciples that their love for one another was a badge of discipleship. Through the unity of their love the world would know they belonged to Him (John 13:34-35). He challenged them and us “to love each other as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).
The kind of unity that Jesus desires among believers today is not accomplished by blindly following traditions, or begrudgingly subscribing to the same doctrinal positions. It is based on love. His love. Divine love.
Love produces peace. Is manifest in mutual consideration. Expresses itself in kindness and courtesy. Issues itself in forgiveness. And is surrounded by grace and mercy.
“Let brotherly love continue” admonished the Hebrew writer. After all, love is the very means by which we enjoy unity in the cross.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman