17 Pentecost, Sept. 16
“Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets” (Mark 8:27-28). Changing the question to a personal and pointed trial of faith, Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29) He is still asking. He is still listening and waiting. And, at the very first sign of faith, which he himself gives, Jesus predicts his ruin and calls every disciple to follow him. “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
The cross is a scandal and folly. It is also the wisdom and power of God, for the cross is a tree of life with roots sent down all the way to death and nothingness. The cross is a sign of what is ignoble, what is foolish, what is weak, what is low and despised, what is nothing (1 Cor. 1:26-28). So the cross leaves nothing behind, pulls up everything and everyone. The cosmos is lifted high upon the cross. And, in union with Christ, every hurt and bloodied life moves toward healing and life everlasting. Adhering to the cross, the old Adam dies, and a new being comes forth. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:19-20).
The resurrection of Christ transforms a Roman gallows into a gateway toward heaven upon which all the families of the earth may walk in newness of life and peace. The cross is wisdom and power and beauty.
Once known, the cross appears everywhere. It is in the street, at the square, at the busy corner, the entrance to the city (Prov. 1:20-21). The heavens tell, and the domed sky declares, the cross. Day and night are stories and proverbs of the cross. Without speech, without words, without voice, the cross simply is. Jesus is everywhere on a cross of pain, and he is everywhere in the torments of hell, and he is everywhere in the first light of a new day, and he is everywhere ascending up, everywhere in glory. Faith sees the wisdom of the cross as the crown of all beauty.
Look at the cross that saves you. Do you see God’s love? “[Wisdom] is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets” (Wis. 7:26-27). “She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars” (Wis. 7:29).
The wisdom of God is a bitter and brilliant beauty, for God in Christ has gone all the way down that we might go up where Christ is.
A Latin hymn for the sixth hour of the day: Crux mundi benedictio, spes certaque redemptio, olim gehennae baiula, nunc clara caeli ianua (“The cross, once the port of hell, is now the blessing of the world, hope and certain redemption, the clear door of heaven”). He descended into hell. He rose again and ascended into heaven.
Look It Up
Anthems, BCP, p. 281.
Think About It
Jesus died for us sinners.