Rev. Kenneth Fellenbaum

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Milford, Connecticut, United States

Bible Verse of the Day

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

His Cross and Ours

On Palm Sunday the Church celebrates Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus rode into the City on a donkey accompanied by His disciples and to the greeting of the crowds who shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!" (Matthew 21:9). Unfortunately the joy of Palm Sunday begins to dissipate as we remember the events of Holy Week two thousand years ago that culminated with the night of agony in Gethsemane and the suffering on Calvary's cross on Good Friday. The Gospel accounts clearly state that Jesus knew in advance these turn of events before He went to Jerusalem.

After Peter's great confession at Caesarea Philippi, that Christ is the Son of the Living God, "Jesus began to explain to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (Matthew 16:21). Observe that the word "must" is repeated in this verse to emphasize the necessity of Christ's going to Jerusalem to suffer and His being crucified (see Matthew 20:19). The reason that Jesus left Heaven and came to earth was for the purpose of His sacrificial death on the cross. This was the Father's will for His life that He faced and struggled with in the Garden the night before. Jesus realized that there was no getting around the cross and He went to Calvary to finish the mission for which He was sent. When Peter heard Jesus talking about this, he "took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22). Twice Peter used the word "never" when he addressed the Lord. Jesus' stern response further underscores the necessity of the cross (see verse 23). Jesus heard the voice of His adversary, Satan, in the words of Peter.

Jesus continues saying this to His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26). While Jesus was facing the cross, He stated the necessity of the cross for us as well. For Jesus the cross (a means of execution and not merely a burden) meant His literal death. The requirement for Christ's followers is given as a threefold challenge: 1) Denial of self, 2) Taking up the cross, and 3) Following Jesus. The message of the cross is not an easy one. It runs counter with our human nature; but if we are going to be true disciples of Christ, then there is no avoiding what Jesus stated.

The shallow contemporary "gospel" that is so prevalent today has commercialized Christmas and made it a gift-giving extravaganza. The birth of a baby is always a joyous event and the wise men did present gifts to Jesus' parents; but the first Christmas was, after all, the birthday of the Savior. Easter has also been marketed as a celebration of hope and renewal that includes the Easter Bunny and eggs. There would be no joy of the resurrection, however, if there had not been His death on the cross. This is why the cross is the symbol of Christianity.