Summary: This message looks at the attitude, frame of mind, perspective or worldview we’re called to in the cross.
The Final Word
We are in the third week of the season of Lent. Lent is a journey toward Easter. It is a season of preparation as we intentionally reflect upon our lives in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His call upon our lives. This journey is headed toward the good news of Easter and the miracle of the resurrection, but in order to get there, we have to journey to the cross. We’ve been looking at the cross and the life that it calls us to. Today, we’re going to look at the attitude, frame of mind, perspective or worldview we’re called to in the cross.
The fall of Communism in the late 80’s and early 90’s sparked the discussion of what or who caused it. Some people believe it was Ronald Reagan. But many point to an event that took place in June 1979. Pope John Paul II had decided to visit his homeland of Poland. Poland was under communist rule, and it had outlawed all forms of religion. So John Paul’s decision put the communist leaders in an awkward position. If they let the Pope come to Poland, he could say all sorts of wild things, and incite the people. However, if they didn’t let the Pope come, they would be implying they saw him as a threat. This put them in a pretty sticky situation. They decided to let the Pope come, figuring he would probably say some of his nonsense and then leave. The people would lose their fascination with him, and that would be it. But when he arrived, tens of thousands of people came out to welcome the Pope. The crowds were electric. The people were so excited that as the Pope drove through the crowded streets, the people shouted, “We want God! We want God!” This, of course, shocked the Communist leaders. The excitement of the Pope’s visit reached its climax on June 10. The pope decided to give a public mass in Blonie Field just outside of Krakow, one of the major cities in Poland. The Communist leaders had figured the excitement about the Pope would wear off by then and only a few people would show up. They were wrong again. An estimated crowd between 2 and 3 million people showed up. That day, the Pope gave a sermon and confronted communism head on by calling out its attempt to kill the religious heritage of Poland, a country that had believed in Christ for a 1000 years. Toward the end of his sermon, he said: “You must be strong with love, which is stronger than death. When we are strong with the Spirit of God, we are also strong with the faith of man. There is therefore no need to fear. So I beg you: Never lose your trust, do not be defeated; do not be discouraged. Always seek spiritual power from Him in whom countless generations of our fathers and mothers have found it.”
In other words, communism doesn’t have the final say. God does! When you start telling 2-3 million people that, then communism is in trouble. It is because of Jesus, and in particularly his work on the cross, we are reminded that no matter what we find ourselves up against, God is the one who ultimately has the final say.
Our Scripture today is one of the first Christian hymns ever written. We aren’t sure if Paul wrote it or if he is just quoting it but it contains some of the most profound truths in the entire Bible about Jesus and the events surrounding Easter. In verses 8-9, Paul says Jesus humbled himself and was obedient all the way to death, even death on a cross. The Latin word for cross “Crux” was the ultimate symbol of shame, defeat and humiliation. It was a form of capitol punishment that stripped the person of every ounce of dignity on their way to death. The cross or the crux was so awful that people didn’t even want to think about it, let alone say it. In Jesus’ time, the cross, or the crux was the most awful thing imaginable.
In the first century, everyone under Roman rule knew Caesar had the last word and final say. If Caesar had a problem with someone, he would just crucify them. And once you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s the last word on someone crucified. In Caesar’s world, he had the final say, and the cross was the period at the end of his sentence, or so he thought until Jesus. These early Christians, like Paul, didn’t see it that way. What Paul is saying here in Philippians 2 is Caesar may have thought he had the final say by putting Jesus on the cross, but he was wrong. Jesus may have died, but he didn’t stay that way. He turned that period at the end of the sentence, the cross, into a comma. Our God, the God of the universe, is the kind of God that can turn crux, the ultimate symbol of shame, defeat and suffering and transform it into an enduring symbol of love, forgiveness and restoration. Make no mistake, the cross didn’t happen to Jesus, Jesus happened to the cross and now it serves as a powerful reminder that God has the final say.