The Scandalous Cross...

Today's Devotional Thought:

The scandalous cross. [scan-dal-ous: causing general public outrage by a perceived offense against morality or law.]

Galatians 3:10-13, "For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because "the righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, "The person who does these things will live by them." Christ 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."

As we turn our eyes towards Easter we must see the empty tomb through the cross of Jesus. To fully understand the victory of the empty tomb we must fully understand the scandal of the cross. (The scandal of God declaring me “not guilty” because Jesus took my punishment on the cross.) The cross is God taking the curse that was upon each of us—for we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23)—and putting that curse fully upon Jesus. None of us were able to live up to God's standard of holiness (right doing and right thinking). Paul says in Romans 3:19-20, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin." So, it is through the cross that God becomes both "just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). It is the scandal of grace that, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Scandalous. Glorious.

What does that look like? Paul Zahn, in Who Will Deliver Us, puts it this way: "I'm a little like the duck hunter who was hunting with his friend in a wide-open barren of land in southeastern Georgia. Far away on the horizon he noticed a cloud of smoke. Soon, he could hear the sound of crackling. A wind came up and he realized the terrible truth: a brush-fire was advancing his way. It was moving so fast that he and his friend could not outrun it. The hunter began to rifle through his pockets. Then he emptied all the contents of his knapsack. He soon found what he was looking for-a book of matches. To his friend's amazement, he pulled out a match and struck it. He lit a small fire around the two of them. Soon they were standing in a circle of blackened earth, waiting for the brush fire to come. They did not have to wait long. They covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs and braced themselves. The fire came near-and swept over them. But they were completely unhurt. They weren't even touched. Fire would not burn the place where fire had already burned.

"The law is like the brush-fire. I cannot escape it. But if I stand in the burned-over place, where law has already burned its way through, then I will not get hurt. Not a hair of my head will be singed. The death of Christ is the burned-over place. There I huddle, hardly believing yet relieved. Christ's death has disarmed the law. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." [Paul Zahl, Who Will Deliver Us? (Wipf & Stock, 2008), pp. 42-43]

Praise God for the scandal of the cross!

Prayer: Holy Father: we often forget just how holy, how apart from evil and wrongdoing, You are. We often forget how sinful, how morally bankrupt, how much wrong doing we have done. But when we get a good look at that scandalous cross we see clearly. Your grace amazes us, washes over us, sets us free. You paid the penalty for Your own standards so that the unlovely, the unrighteousness, the failures and fallen could come to You clinging to Your Sons cross and be able cry out with a quivering voice of amazement, "Abba, Daddy." We thank you for that scandalous cross. We thank you for amazing grace! In Jesus name, amen.