The Cross as “Speechless failure”

The most therapeutic exercise for the Christian who is enduring suffering, of whatever sort that might be, is to contemplate the crucifixion of Jesus.

If ever mortal men found a real hero on this earth, those men were disciples. They, indeed, were hero-worshippers. Then think of the horrid shock and shame which overwhelmed them at the Cross. It was no splendid martyrdom for a great cause, no glorious conquest won at the cost of life; no epic to be sung or celebrated. No, the Cross was simply an utter overthrow, a speechless failure. It was all sordid, cruel, criminal, a gross injustice, an intolerable defeat of good by evil, of God by devils…. He their hero, their chosen leader, he was numbered with the transgressors. He was cast out with a curse upon him. Think how loyalty would burn to right this wrong, to clear his memory, to save his reputation, to prove that gross outrage had been done to him, to magnify the life so that the death might be forgotten…. But nothing of the kind seems to have occurred to the Evangelists. They literally glory in the Cross…. They are clear, with an absolute conviction, that the best and most wonderful thing he ever did was… to die a felon’s death, between two robbers. It was their hero’s greatest heroism that he was executed as a common criminal.

–Philip Rhinelander, The Faith of the Cross, cited by Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion

Whatever the Christian may endure, the folly of the cross proves itself ever and again as the power of God and the wisdom of God.

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Published in: on February 16, 2017 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Reformed Catholicity

One of the great legacies of Dr. Jelle Faber, Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary’s first principal and dogmatics professor, was the plea for the church to maintain a robust reformed catholicity, along the lines of the creeds:  “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (I can still hear him enthusiastically reciting these words as he sped his way through the Sunday afternoon liturgy). Even though I never had the privilege of being his student in seminary, his preaching, public lectures, and writings left a deep impression on me since I was a boy, and have influenced my own preaching and teaching and pastoral ministry (including his habit of always including the Lord’s Prayer at some point in the Lord’s Day service). I guess that’s part of the reason that much of what James K. A. Smith writes here resonates with me.