Cross stands at the heart of the Christian faith. Yes, believers sit at the
feet of Jesus the Teacher, captivated by his compelling vision of the righteous
life in the Sermon on the Mount. They marvel at the miracles the Bible reports
he performed; making the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. But the
Gospel accounts never let us forget for a moment that the Man who preached the
Sermon on the Mount and made broken human beings whole was heading for the
death of the Cross. Jesus knew it, which was why he repeatedly told his
followers, 'the Son of Man must suffer... and be killed'.
What lies behind that 'must'? Was Jesus' death by crucifixion the outworking of the unstoppable forces of history? When Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister he acknowledged he was powerless to resist calls in the Conservative Party that he should be removed from Number 10, ‘When the herd moves, it moves', he reflected. In Jesus' case, the Jewish religious establishment wanted him out of the way. They feared unless Jesus was stopped they would lose their power. They manipulated Pontius Pilate by forcing him choose between loyalty to Caesar and condemning Jesus to death. Inevitably, Pilate sent Jesus to the Cross rather than risk upsetting the Emperor. But there is more to Jesus' 'must' than that.
Perhaps the 'must' can be attributed to the blind forces of fate that are said to determine who wins the Lottery and who gets run over by a bus? But Jesus wasn't being fatalistic when he spoke of his impending death, going to the Cross resigned to 'whatever will be will be'. No, the 'must' that compelled Jesus towards Calvary was his sense that it was his God-given mission to suffer and be killed. Why? The Bible's answers that quite simply, 'Christ died for our sins'. In other words, the 'must' of which Jesus spoke was the fulfilment of God's rescue plan for the world, 'God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Now all who believe in Jesus are forgiven and put right with God.
Not only Jesus’ death, but also his resurrection was covered by the divine ‘must’, ‘the Son of Man must suffer... and be killed, and after three days rise again’. It was not possible for death to maintain its iron grip on the Prince of Life.
Easter services at Providence & Ebenezer: