Scripture: John 11:43-53
There’s a hymn called ‘I love to tell the story’ that we sang frequently in a church I used to serve. In the first verse you sing, ‘I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.’ The second verse continues, ‘I love to tell the story, tis pleasant to repeat, it seems each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.’
I do love to tell the story of Jesus. I love to tell the story of the incarnation, of our God who loved the world so much that he took on flesh and was born among us, poor and vulnerable in a stable. I love to tell the story of Jesus calling fishermen and outcasts and sinners–choosing all the people no one else wanted tp be his disciples. I love to tell the story of Jesus casting out demons and healing the sick and restoring lepers to community. I love to tell the story of Jesus’ disciples wanting to send a hungry crowd away, and Jesus showing them that when they trust the little they have to him, it miraculously becomes more than enough. I love the story of Jesus flipping out in the temple, calling out the Pharisees and healing the wounds of the soldier who came to arrest him. I love to tell the story of the last supper and Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet and the new command he gives us.
I do love to tell the story of Jesus, except for one part. One part that is not wonderfully sweet, one part that is never pleasant to repeat. One part that was terribly, gruesomely not unseen. But it is the part of the story, more than any other, which reveals the nature of Jesus’ glory and love. That part, of course, is the cross.
The cross is the most essential and revelatory piece of the story.
I’ve heard a lot of people tell the story of the cross badly. I’ve heard them tell it as divine child abuse, as justification for hatred and violence against Jewish people, as a blank check permitting Christians to do whatever seems good in their own eyes. Some of us have seen and heard such awful things about the cross that we’ve learned to barely mention it when we tell the story of Jesus.
If the cross seems nothing but violent, nothing but tragic, nothing but bad news–the answer isn’t to look away, the answer is to learn to see the cross differently. And that is what we, with God’s grace, will do in the coming weeks–we will learn to see the cross in new ways. Because for us, the cross of Jesus is the glory of God, it is the catalyst of salvation, it is hope, it is peace, it is the end of violence, separation and enmity, it is astonishingly good news. The story of the cross will never be pleasant or sweet, but it is wonder-filled.
Come and see.
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