The Cross of Christ and Moving Beyond Ourselves
Religion & Liberty Online

The Cross of Christ and Moving Beyond Ourselves

Holy Week gives us an excellent opportunity to simply take time to look beyond ourselves. When I was little kid, lying in bed at night, I would sometimes become terrified and overwhelmed with the idea of death. I was so petrified of the notion that after death I would be snuffed out of existence for eternity. I’d turn on all the lights and desperately try to distract myself from my deepest thoughts. It didn’t help much that the first dream I can remember as a kid was being chased by the devil with a pitchfork. It made me concerned about the destiny of my eternal state. Ultimately, the only thing that cured me from these panic attacks was the Gospel and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I had to look beyond myself.

With the suffering death and resurrection of Christ, no kind of death should trouble a person clinging to Christ. As the angels said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” And as Athanasius declared in On the Incarnation, “A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.” Often we look upon the cross and see violence foremost. It is our sin that put Christ there. But Jesus bore the entire weight of the world and it could not contain him. He was beaten, mutilated, and scourged, but the Father glorified Him in death. Hillary of Poiters noted:

The sun, instead of setting, fled, and all the other elements felt that same shock of the death of Christ. The stars in their courses, to avoid complicity in the crime, escaped by self-extinction from beholding the scene. The earth trembled under the weight of our Lord hanging on the cross and testified that it did not have the power to hold within it him who was dying.

The entire reason of God in the flesh is to destroy the death that lurks in us and haunts us. The Apostle Paul says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb. 2:14-15) Death is unable to contain true life. In this hour of America and across the world, there is a desperate need for truth. Even many churches seem confused or paralyzed to teach truth at this hour. Just look at how many churches are silent on religious liberty, sanctity of life, or just teaching a traditional understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Sadly, many American churches are moving away from the centrality of the Cross. Naturally, they become corrupted, just like the world. This is sad because the news is so good.

“So great is the ruin of the creature that less than the self-surrender of God would not suffice for its rescue. But so great is God, that it is His will to render up Himself,” declares Karl Barth. God in our place is so critical. The humility and servant nature of our Lord, expressed through eternity by the Word made man, lets us know that we are to be included in the perfect fellowship that the Son shares with the Father and Spirit. At this very hour, human flesh is united in the Trinity. When he ascended to the Father he took the whole human race with him. In his hymn, “Hail the Day that Sees him Rise,” Charles Wesley declares, “Though returning to His throne, still He calls mankind His own.” When we are assured of this great truth, we are freed to be in real fellowship. We are called out of our tombs of despair, addictions, dependency, and even fear of death. We are called to embrace the undoing of our corruption and self-centeredness, and most importantly, to move beyond ourselves.

Ray Nothstine

Ray Nothstine is editor at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.