The Cross of Christ Part 2 — A Suffering Savior for a Suffering World

Chaim Potok, conservative Jewish rabbi and Jewish scholar, wrote a beautiful novel called My Name is Asher Lev.  It is about a young Jewish boy who is an artist and whose Hassidic Jewish parents, especially his father, see his art as against the Torah, something for the goyim and unreligious Jews.  His parents are deeply involved in a dangerous movement to get their Hassidic Jewish brethren out of Russia where they are being persecuted and into the freedom and safety of western Europe and the United States.  His mother’s brother is killed in these efforts.  And Asher observes her suffering over his death as well as her worrying about his father’s frequent trips.  He also sees her suffer as she stands between her son and her husband in the conflict over his drawings and paintings. His mother takes him secretly to art museums where he sees many paintings by the old masters of the crucifixion. Intrigued by them, he asks his mother about them.  She says they are of Jesus, the God of the goyim, but we cannot speak of Him.  As Asher grows to manhood he continues with his art and becomes a successful artist. For the first exhibition of his paintings he depicts his mother’s suffering by painting her on a crucifix.

He thinks about the painting and the hurt it will cause his parents:  “For all the pain you suffered, my mama.  For all the torment of your past and future years, my mama.  For all the anguish this picture of pain will cause you.  For the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats.  For the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world I do not comprehend.  For dreams of horror, for nights of waiting, for memories of death, for the love I have for you, for all the things I remember, and for all the things I should remember but have forgotten, for all these I created this painting–an observant Jew working on a crucifixion because there was no aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment.”

What a poignant and powerful statement on the symbolism and reality of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who endured unspeakable suffering for the sins of the world!

A Music Link:  What Wondrous Love Is This by Steve Green

The Cross of Christ Part 1 — The Foolishness of the Cross

In the March 27, 2000 issue of Newsweek, Kenneth L. Woodward, long time religion editor for Newsweek, writes in his article The Other Jesus, “Clearly the cross is what separates the Christ of Christianity from every other Jesus. In Judaism, there is no precedent for a Messiah who dies, much less as a criminal as Jesus did. In Islam, the story of Jesus’ death is rejected as an affront to Allah himself. Hindus can accept only a Jesus who passes into peaceful samadhi, a yogi who escapes the degradation of death. ‘The figure of the crucified Christ,’ says Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘is a painful image to me. It does not contain joy or peace and this does not do justice to Jesus.’  Indeed the cross has become a stumbling block to many religions today.”

But this is nothing new.  Since Jesus’ birth, He has always been a stumbling block.  For God purposed to send a Jesus who was not clever, strong, rich or powerful in the eyes of the world, but rather sent to us a Jesus who was meek, humble, and devoid of worldly position and power.  And certainly He was seen as weak and powerless and despised by men in His death.  They didn’t understand His compliance to the will of God. God sent us a Jesus who could empathize with the weakness, suffering, rejection, persecution, poverty and injustice of humankind.  He sent a Jesus who was approachable, kind and in whom we could find not worldly acceptance and power but rather acceptance by our Creator God and peace and rest for our weary souls.

Isaiah spoke to this in his prophecy (chapter 53),

2″He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,…
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions
he was crushed for our iniquities
the punishment that brought us peace was on him…”

Yes, the cross of Christ was purposefully designed by God, in His wisdom and foreknowledge, to be a stumbling block and an offence to the unbelieving, unconverted world.  Paul wrote almost 2000 years ago to the Corinthians (chapter 1) the following:

“18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written,
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the (gospel) message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

A Music Link:  When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Selah