In Colossians 2, the Message translation says this, “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 MSG). Jesus took our cross and gave us His crown. Now, what does this mean?
In Galatians 3:13 (NIV) it tells us that, “Christ redeemed us,” that is- He bought us, “From the curse of the law.” Remember that old arrest warrant has been cancelled (Colossians 2). There’s an arrest warrant for our life. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole'" (Galatians 3:13). Jesus willingly allowed Himself to go to the cross. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say He just allowed Himself, but it tells us that He resolutely set out for Jerusalem, where He knew the cross was waiting for Him.
Jesus resolutely set out to go to the cross. Now that isn’t to say that He didn’t want to bypass the cross. He was fully God AND He was fully man. In Matthew 26:39 we read, "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Jesus Christ took our cross. We are the guilty ones (Romans 3:23). He is the innocent one (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now while He died so that we would be forgiven, He also died so that we who were far off from God could be brought near to God. For He Himself, the Bible tells us, reconciled the two of us that were made hostile to one another (Ephesians 2:15). God loved us so much (John 3:16) that even while we were enemies to Him, Christ died for us (Romans 5:10). Because of Jesus, we are no longer enemies, but children of God and heirs of the kingdom (Romans 8:17). We are sons and daughters of the Most High God. Imagine how this understanding of our identity could change our daily living. No longer are we defined by our dysfunction or the dysfunction of those around us. We can silence the voices of our past that have wounded us with the new song placed (Psalm 40:3) within our hearts by our loving Father who says, "You are mine!"
In this Blog Post, I would like to focus on some lessons that emerge from the Passion story of Jesus. The week of Christ’s triumphant entry, last supper, crucifixion, and resurrection epitomizes the Christian experience that takes us through times of celebration, rejection, anguish, suffering, and redemption. Jesus tells us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and learn from Him, so that we “know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). While there are many lessons that emerge from the Passion story, I will share three that are particularly meaningful to me.
First, sometimes we stand, so that others don’t fall. Jesus knew that He would die for those who would reject, mock, deny, and abandon Him and still He “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) where the cross awaited Him. He did not suffer for His sake, but for ours. Sometimes we ask God why we must suffer, and while we may suffer at times for our needed growth, we may suffer for the sake of someone else. As a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) our lives are no longer our own for we have been bought by the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20). We are transformed with “ever increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Christ was sent into the world to save us (John 3:16) and He has sent us into the world with His spirit to do what He did (John 20:21). He saved us by dying for us. We save others by dying for them—by suffering for them and with them. In 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT) we read: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” This is an important reminder that our suffering is used by God to help others. When we are tempted to complain about the pain, we can remember that God wastes nothing in His kingdom and will use it all for His glorious purposes.
Second, in times of suffering, we must learn to be silent. Suffering is inevitable. From Genesis to Revelation, the good and the bad all suffer alike. In fact, Jesus states, “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Matthew 10:22) and that some will be “persecuted and killed” for Him (Matthew 10:22). Suffering is universal and it is a guarantee for a follower of Jesus. Sometimes we suffer because of Him or for Him, and sometimes we suffer because pain happens. We do not have control over the suffering, but we do have control on how we will respond to it when it occurs. As Jesus was suffering through His trial, beatings, and crucifixion, His words were few. Isaiah 53:7 states, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Our words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21) and reflect our hearts (Luke 6:45). We can hamper the power of God working in us and for us by our words. In times of suffering, it may be difficult to be joyful and speak words of praise and thanksgiving—and that is okay. The Passion of Christ does not have a lot of songs in the suffering, but there is silence in the suffering. Our quiet response to pain can be a greater indicator of our trust in God, then our shouts of praise in our strength. Our words can make us feel worst. In silence we are less likely to entertain the grumblings of our heart, which allows us to focus on God and His faithfulness.
Lastly, do not try to defend your reputation. Live with integrity and let God do the rest. When Jesus was being falsely accused, He did not entertain the accusations with arguments to justify Himself. In Matthew 27:12 it states “And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He gave no answer” and in Matthew 27:14 we read, “But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge--to the great amazement of the governor.” Jesus was silent because He trusted the Father to defend Him. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus knew who He was, who His father was and why He came. He did not seek or need the approval of man because He looked to the Father for His strength and identity. People will question our lives and our motives, but it is not our job to defend their charges. It is our job to keep our hearts pure before the Father and seek His approval. God knows our hearts and He will defend us if we let Him fight our battles. If we insist on getting our own way, then we get in His way. There are many lessons in the Passion Story. I pray that you will reflect on what God is telling you through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The ultimate message is that God is for you, with you, and He wins! Remember, God loves you.
"Nevertheless as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed Me and tested Me ten times- not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it." -Numbers 14:21-23 (NIV)
Can you imagine if God says a similar statement about us? To think of us as treating Him with contempt? Do we think of ourselves as treating God with contempt when we grumble, and when we complain, and when we seek to have things differently than they are today? One of the greatest effects of discontentment in our world is that it robs us of the rest of God that is promised to us in Christ.
The Israelite community was given a Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But, they did not respond in faith. Instead, the Bible tells us that after the spies had returned from scouting out the promised land, they responded in fear and grumbling. Caleb and Joshua believed that God would make a way for victory over the inhabitants, but the people sided with those who gave the negative report: "But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored." (Numbers 13:31-32) "That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1-4)
In Hebrews 4, it tells us that the Israelites were not allowed into the Promised Land because of their unbelief. The writer encourages us not to follow their example. For us, the promised land is not a location, but a state of being. It is the state of being at peace. Jesus tells in the Gospel of John (14:27), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus gives us peace as the birthright of the children of God. We have the responsibility to ENTER the peace and take it, just as God expected the Israelites to do. We like the idea of the gift, but we don’t like the idea that there’s anything to the gift that we actually have to do to obtain it. Our unbelief and contempt for God stifles within us the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). We can enter into the rest of God by praising Him, thanking Him, trusting Him, and radically obeying Him.
Dr. Rob Weinstein is the Founding/Senior Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ. He is also a Professor of Business Studies/Academic Director/Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness and food insecurity in Cumberland County, NJ.
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