The simple fact that Jesus was crucified challenges our preconceived ideas of the world and our lives. At this point in the story there’s no happy ending. His execution not only shatters the expected storyline, it intrudes into our lives. The crucifixion prevents us from enjoying the “story of Jesus” as simply wholesome family entertainment promoting good morals. The crucifixion of Jesus challenges our understanding of life.
The primary theme of Matthew’s Gospel to this point has involved the identity of Jesus. Now it challenges MY identity. When we understand that Jesus’ death occurred as part of a mysterious cosmic plan to reconnect humanity with God, we need to consider our side of that connection. When we understand that our sins and guilt can be removed, we have to ask ourselves, “Am I a sinner?” “Do I need forgiveness?” “Am I disconnected from God?” “Am I represented in the crowed baying for Jesus’ death?” “Am I at the foot of the cross taunting Jesus?” “Is that me?” “Am I so valuable that anyone, let alone God himself, would give up that much for me?” “Does he love me that much?” “Am I truly forgiven?” Or is all this just a macbre fairytale?
The second challenge we find in the death of Christ is the challenge to take action. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus claimed to speak for God. Jesus claimed to love people. Jesus claimed to live by a higher ethic. This was the identity he set for himself. But he lived up to it. His death was an ultimate act of love and service. On the cross, above his head was the mocking accusation, “King of the Jews”. Jesus had claimed this identity throughout his ministry, and now he was dying for it. Rather than re-identify himself, Jesus followed through on his message. He was no hypocrite.
Jesus lived by his convictions. Jesus died for his convictions. Identity must lead to action, or it’s just wishful thinking.
- Does Jesus death continue to confront you and prompt self-examination, or do you find yourself becoming “too familiar” with it.
- Can you share examples where you’ve seen churches seek to identify themselves one way, but really it was just “wishful thinking”.
- Do you agree that “Identity must lead to action”? What does that mean for individual Christians?