Boasting of the Cross

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.  Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

  • Galatians 1:11-18

“What glory is there in the cross?  It was an instrument of torture and shame.  Why did Paul glory in it?  He gloried in it because the most selfless act ever performed by men or angels took place upon it.  He saw – emanating from that rough, unartistic beam upon which the Son of God had been crucified – the radiant hope of the world, the end of the believer’s bondage to sin, and the love of God shed abroad in the hearts of men.  A lone man dying on a cross did more to restore man’s lost harmony with God, his fellowman, and himself, than the combined genius and power of earth’s mighty.  With my finite limitations, I cannot fully comprehend the mystery of Christ’s atonement.  I only know that all who come to the cross in simple, trusting faith lose all their guilty stains and find peace with God.”

  • Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham (April 1)

Looking back on an Easter alone, in isolation, watching a church service on the computer, I feel that I must turn back to the cross an ponder.

As a means of torture, I have been tortured in a similar way.  Not by being nailed to a cross but placed in a physical position where my diaphragm had limited movement, and as fluid started to build in my lungs, I would shift my position in order to get a large gulp of life-preserving air, just to be physically punished for doing so.  It was a military exercise, and necessary for the overall outcome of the exercise – no lasting scars, I don’t think.  But I have heard that those who were crucified, hung in agony, until they needed to clear the fluid that builds in the lungs.  The pain against the nails in the feet is excruciating, but breathing is important, so they stand up.  Then, as the pain gets worse, they slump back.  Note that in John 19:31, Pilate ordered the condemned three to have their legs broken.  Jesus was already dead, and His legs were not broken.  In breaking the legs, the fluid would continue to build, and the crucified person would asphyxiate.  Pilate was hastening death in respect to Jewish Sabbath and Passover.

I wasn’t crucified, but I know that feeling, the feeling of wanting to do anything for the next breath.  That got me to thinking about why we are being forced into a lockdown, with various degrees of “stay-at-home” orders.  The people who are most badly affected by the coronavirus have problems breathing.  The virus does not create fluid in the lungs, from what I’ve read, but the breathing passages tend to swell, shutting off the ability to get air into the lungs.  Could it feel similar?  I don’t wish to volunteer to be able to answer that question.

Let’s just say that death on a cross and death from COVID-19 might have a few similarities.

Before the Romans, there were no crucifixions.  The Romans invented to torturous means of death to frighten and subdue the conquering nations as the empire spread.  With fear, they could subdue with less soldiers being required.  And not long after Jesus was crucified, even the Romans lost their stomach for the barbaric practice.  When looking at Old Testament prophecies, like in Psalm 22 (See Ps. 22:16-18), the Psalm Jesus quoted from while on the cross (Psalm 22:1), Jesus had to have lived in that small window of world history for those prophecies to have been fulfilled, prophecies that were written down hundreds of years before crucifixion had been invented.

The important verse in the Scripture above is Galatians 6:14.  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  But I included that entire paragraph to illustrate that only 30 years, give or take, after Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, the religious machine was trying to take the focus away from the cross and Christ alone, adding unnecessary religious rites, as in circumcision.  In the following 1,960 years, give or take, we’ve butchered that simple statement even further with so many rules that we make the Pharisees seem like pikers.

Look to the cross.  There is no one there.  Christ has died for your sins.  There is no more reason for holding onto the guilt of your sin, once God has washed those sins away.

Look to the tomb.  There is no one there.  Christ has risen.  He has risen indeed.  He has paved the way for us to follow.  He is indeed the Way, the way to life eternal with Him.

Look to Jesus.  He lives!  He enters each who trust and believe in Him, and God’s Holy Spirit also dwells within us to guide us.

As Rev. Billy Graham concludes in the quote above: “I only know that all who come to the cross in simple, trusting faith lose all their guilty stains and find peace with God.”

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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