Paradox of the Cross

Luke 9:22-25
Deut 30:15-20 / Psa 1

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
(Luke 9:23-24)

Have no fear for problems or pain,
Just hope for the blessings life will bring.
Behind the cross there’s greater gain,
God has a purpose for everything.

And Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer grievously and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:22-25)

Reflection

The apostles had just witnessed the miraculous feeding of five thousand people. When Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “The Messiah of God” (9:21). It was at this point that Jesus revealed to them what kind of “Messiah” He was — the suffering servant of God, as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, familiar with pain… he took up our pain and bore our suffering… he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray… and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter… After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities… For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for transgressors” (Isa 53:3,4b,5-7,11-12). This was the great paradox that His disciples had to accept, to carry their own crosses and follow Him.

Only a true Christian can accept the paradox of the cross. Many who do not share our faith question why human suffering, if not self-denial and detachment from worldly things should be so essential to our salvation. We only understand it vaguely that it has to do with the fallen state of man and the salvation plan of God. By faith we have come to believe that if God could take it upon Himself to surrender His own divinity for a time and become human, and suffer an ignominious death on the cross to expiate for our sins, then surely we can do no less, by denying our vain desires, and making sacrifices for the sake of others. Only by emptying ourselves of the worldly can we be fulfilled spiritually. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

A paradox is defined as a statement or truth that appears to contradict itself. How can the symbol of the most inhuman form of torture employed by the Roman empire be our way of salvation? Or how could God Himself, the Creator of all things, sinless and pure, take upon Himself all the sins of mankind, and offer Himself as a living sacrifice for man’s salvation? Suffice it to say that it is not for us to comprehend this great mystery in this life but in the next, but there is enough evidence in the Bible that proves Jesus of Nazareth was real, and He performed those miracles and taught timeless wisdom that only a “supernatural being” could have done. His life and teachings as well as all the prophecies about Him in the Scriptures were all paradoxical, but no one in the history of mankind has ever proven any of them to be false. This all Christians believe: through His suffering and death we have been reconciled with God, our Father in heaven. This is the great paradox of the cross.

Grant us the strength and courage, dear God, to accept whatever cross it is our destiny to bear in our life, so that we may faithfully follow our Lord Jesus Christ, and be worthy to enter Your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

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