The kids and I are home this morning due to Aaron’s cold. So, instead of worshipping at church we are playing Cinderella Tree and dinosaurs and coloring in Mercy’s activity book. Oh, and Mercy has run probably a hundred laps through the dining and living rooms “losing” one of her shoes each time just like Cinderella does when she flees the ball!
Aaron took a good long nap, and is now up and seemingly in much better spirits. We can see the runners in the L.A. Marathon through our living room window as they head south on Normandie. Between street closures and vast parking restrictions, the neighborhood is a bit chaotic today as a result of the big race. It is kind of fun to see the flood of them pass by. I am shocked at how many people there are, and I realized that I had no idea how many people participated in an event like this!
Before he left this morning, Doug mentioned something that he was going to share as part of his invocation this morning, and it had to do with the relationship between Jesus’ death and his glory. I was reminded of a great book that I read in seminary called, “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross” by Joel Green and Mark Baker. In their opening chapter they write:
“The cross is thus often discussed either in positive terms, with an emphasis on its ‘cash value’ for our salvation, or in negative terms, with an emphasis on how the ignominy of the cross was overcome in Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. As a result, our Christian brothers and sisters, whether overseas in the Two-Thirds World or in our own inner cities, rightly complain that Western theology has stripped the faith of an important aspect of the New Testament portrayal of Jesusâ€”the one who joins us in our suffering. ‘The crucified one is the living one,’ we want to say; but so also is ‘the living one’ ‘the crucified one’.”
Doug and I have had some interesting exchanges recently with people who think that choosing to live where we live (and serve where we serve) is offensive: offensive to our educations and our career potentials, and to the degree of privilege our children are entitled to. I confess that I have the same conversation with myself and with God on various occasions, so I do not stand in judgment of these individuals.
It is appropriate to consider the cross right now during this season of Lent, and this morning Green and Baker are helping me to do just that. As I think about how we view the cross, and the significance of Jesus’ death, it is clear what an impact those things have on how we interpret our lives as disciples. I love the title of Green and Baker’s book: “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross.” I think perhaps that is what Lent can and should be for all of us.
I remembering sitting in a Fuller classroom hearing Marianne Meye Thomspon share with us that in the time of Jesus, death by crucifixion was so humiliating and scandalous, that the subject could not even be discussed in polite company. The manner of Jesus’ dying was too distasteful to even talk about. It was just too offensive.
Later in that same chapter, the authors write:
“According to the conventions of first-century Jewish and Roman society, the suffering Jesus experienced on the cross was less about physical pain and more about degradation, rejection and humiliation. Those whose lives are unreservedly oriented toward the purpose of God in a world that has set itself over against that purpose can expect little else. Jesus says as much when he turns from the prediction of his own demise to his delineation of the cost of discipleship: ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow me’…To our way of thinking, the passion of Jesus is swallowed up in the resurrection. Jesus is raised from the dead ‘in spite of’ his sufferingâ€”that is, in order to overturn the negative evaluation of him that would normally accrue to a victim of crucifixion. Rarely do we think of the resurrection as an affirmation of Jesus and his cross, with the consequence that we fail to see the profundity of the claim that the cross places on the faith and life of the church.”
Those whose lives are unreservedly oriented toward the purpose of God in a world that has set itself over against that purpose can expect little else. Or, as Marianne put it during one of her lectures: “The crucifixion was the necessary consequence of the incarnation.”
Do our lives reflect that? Do we believe that they should?