The world was created by Christ and for Christ (Col 1:16). At the center of God’s purpose for creation is his plan to unite himself to us in Christ, reveal himself to us through Christ, and share his life with us by incorporating us into Christ.
We don’t know what this might have looked like for God to share his life with us if humanity was not fallen. But we do know how it is communicated and shared now that we are in a fallen world. In a word, it looks like the cross.
The cross is the fullness of God’s love. John defines the love that is God’s eternal nature (1 Jn 4:8) by pointing to the cross (1 Jn 3:16). Everything Jesus was about is thematically summed up on the cross, which is why we find the cross holding center stage whenever the meaning of Christ’s coming is touched on throughout the NT.
That the cross is the thematic center is demonstrated by the fact that the Gospel narratives place the cross as the focal point. The crucifixion stories are called the passion narratives. It’s almost like the Gospels are long introductions to the passion.
This centrality is also reflected in the fact that Jesus highlights the cross as the event that most glorifies the Father (Jn 12:27-28). Paul highlights it as the event that most decisively reveals God’s wisdom and power (1 Cor 1:17-18, 24).
For Paul, to preach the gospel was simply to preach “the message of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18:23), so all who opposed the gospel could be described as persecuting the cross (Phil 3:18).
To be a follower of Jesus is to participate in, and therefore imitate the self-sacrificial love manifested on the cross. This is illustrated by the initiation ceremony of baptism as a new believer goes down under the water and then is raised to new life.
When it comes to understanding what God is like and what he thinks of us, we ought to adopt the same attitude Paul expressed when he resolved “to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). To begin to experience the full life God planned for us before he created the world, we must resolve to look nowhere else than to the cross.
Our deepest longings and hungers are meant to drive us to the one and only source of true life, whose self-sacrificial character was fully disclosed on the cross. Anything other than the love of God revealed on Calvary that we turn to for life is an idol that eventually ends up sucking life from us. But the cross is the place where we find true life.
May God open your eyes to this cross-like love of God during this Holy Week.
—Adapted from Benefit of the Doubt, pages 60-62