"Cross" is a short word of only five letters, but break it apart and it contains the whole story of the Bible. C.R.O.S.S.—Creation, Redemption, One nation, Separation, Salvation. The story of the Bible is our story, too, and each of these stages helps us get the "big picture" of our life in Christ. Follow the whole series here.
A young girl and boy stand at the microphone, talking as though they don't see all the children seated in front of them.
"Are you serious? He just came up and shot him? In the back?"
This is not your usual Christmas pageant! I wonder where they are going with this.
"It's terrible," says the boy. "I just don't know how God could let that happen. Doesn't he love us? Why doesn't he do something?"
"Dude, he already did."
"I guess I'm going to have to tell you the real story of Christmas."
And the familiar story began. Children dressed in sheets and robes acted out the angel's message to Mary, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of the Christ Child. The shepherds and kings—and even Santa Claus, in this version—sought Jesus out and knelt before the manger. The entire cast broke into a hip-hop gloria of praise.
A king in a cattle shed. Who would believe it? More to the point, I couldn't help thinking as it ended, how does this story answer the boy's questions? Doesn't God love us? Why doesn't God do something?
The girl was right. God already did. In the final stage of the story of the CROSS, the author enters the story. The second "S" in "CROSS" stands for Salvation.
What God did—through Jesus
The Jews of first-century Palestine expected God to come save them by raising a powerful king to defeat their enemies and establish peace by the sword. Instead, God came personally—in the person of Jesus. He was a defenseless baby boy, born to poor parents. He grew to be a respected teacher but was crucified like a common criminal in the prime of life. How does that help? Let's look at what God did through the incarnation of Jesus:
Jesus came as a man.
No matter how hard we look, we can't see God or touch God or even know who God is without God's help. But God "sent his son"—was born like us, took on human flesh—so we could relate to God and know God as a loving Father who would rather die than let us self-destruct (John 3:16).
Jesus destroyed death and the power of the devil.
Jesus became human precisely so God could enter into human suffering, take the burden of sin to the grave, and bury it there (1 Peter 2:24). But death was not the end of him. He rose from death, and in the process destroyed the power of death by turning it into the door to eternal life: anyone who is baptized into his death is filled with the new life of his Spirit to live in the hope of everlasting life with God (2 Timothy 1:10).
Jesus established a kingdom.
During his earthly life, Jesus established a kingdom that transcends nationality and every kind of earthly division (John 18:36). That kingdom is heavenly and eternal but at the same time has "boots on the ground" here on earth. The church is Jesus's hands and feet, carrying out his mission of healing and feeding and reconciling people to each other and their heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
Jesus remains with us still (God with us).
Having once come to earth, Jesus—"God with us"—did not leave us. "I am with you always," he promised (Matthew 28:20). And sure enough: after rising from the dead and appearing to many people, he ascended into heaven to rule his kingdom in glory. At the same time, he stays close to us: through his Word; by his Spirit living within us; in his Body, the church; and in his body and blood offered to us in Communion.
God doesn't force anyone into the kingdom. As long as time lasts there will be those who refuse God and God's ways. Sin and suffering will continue to plague the world. But we don't have to escape the world or our humanity to reach God. We hunger and thirst and cry out in our brokenness, and to each of us Jesus comes as food and drink, healing and rest and salvation. He walks beside us in our abandonment and pain and says, "I've been there. Come to me and rest and be satisfied. Get to know me and the hope of my kingdom."
Enter the story
Do you sometimes wonder where God is in your life? He is with us! Jesus can be born in you spiritually, just as he was born physically in Mary over 2,000 years ago. He died to break the power of sin in your life and to reconcile you to your heavenly Father. And he longs to fill you with life that will take you from here to eternal peace and joy with him.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
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