Posted by: rogermitchell | May 28, 2010

How big is the cross?

Can we talk about the cross as ‘the event’ when everything changed? Surely it’s the 3-fold event of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus with each part contributing equally to the possibility released into the world.

In his comment on May 20th Jonas Lundstrom pointed out the problem of  talking about “the world being saved on the cross” and such like. His problem is that if the world was saved there, then it’s a pretty rum kind of salvation. As he puts it, we need more than that. I agree. Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16 makes it clear that the gospel has potency for salvation, not that salvation is already over. As he says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The idea that salvation is all done and dusted comes I think, from propitiatory, substitutionary ideas of the atonement where the cross is thought to be the place where God’s offended sovereignty is appeased by the sacrifice of Christ. Roman Catholics with that view see it as still needing to happen every day and Protestants think it happened once for all, but both positions are peculiarly alien to the character of the gospel Jesus and therefore of the Father and Spirit that he claimed to reveal.  As I understand it the cross is the place where everything opposed to the Jesus way of life came to a head. Everything that any follower of that way of love can ever be confronted with was overcome by him there, and so his resurrection both released and demonstrated a power ultimately bigger than all evil and injustice. It is hard to imagine a gift bigger than the breakthrough anti-power, other kind of power represented by what Jesus did at the cross.  But unless we live by it on our journey and in this day and time it will make little difference to the here and now. This is the challenge and calling of the people of God.

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Responses

  1. The question of how big the Christ ‘event’ was is a good one because it causes us to ask pretty huge questions about what we might mean by this idea of ‘salvation’.

    Viewed through the Enlightenment, it’s seems to be all about me and my personal transformative event which then permits wider progress for humanity (and certainly not the creation!). That’s deeply unsatisfying and pretty much closes down the whole story, I think.

    I’m all for removing the limits on what it is that Jesus is supposed to have done. Resurrection, after all (which, obviously, did not occur on the cross) is the ‘evidence’ that Jesus penetrated our most ultimate limit. It is surely, in this context, that the Pauline notion of all things being possible comes into its own. Possibility has indeed been released into the world that there might (will) be a new heaven and a new earth. That which shuts down possibility through judgement seems to me to be part of that which resisted Christ and was ultimately overcome. How big is God’s gift of love? What limits can it know? What conditions can it sustain without subverting its own giftliness?

  2. How big is the cross? Far bigger than we can ask or imagine! And thank God for that. c.

  3. Amen.


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