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Minulle elämä on Kristus ja kuolema on voitto. Fil. 1:21

Blog: The cross is a mystery

in English 26.5.2016 06:55 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
”But we preach Christ crucified. – – Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:23–24.)
The cross is probably the most widely known symbol of Easter. When I think about the Passion Week and Easter, the thing that first comes to my mind is the cross. In our churches the altar is often decorated with a crucifix, either a painting or a sculpture of crucified Christ. This reminds us of the suffering of Jesus and His death on the cross. We may also see an empty cross in a church. That tells us about Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death. The cross bears a message.
 
This message, however, is disconcerting to rational man. It causes him to wrestle with God. Why is it that God, who is great and almighty, consented to suffer humbly and to die on the cross? Would it not have been possible for God, who rules over all things, to forgive man without this brutal and horrible bloodshed? Why did God have to be born as a human only to die? Would it not have been possible to atone and forgive in a different way?

These questions plague us, for death on the cross is not transparent to reason. We can approach this topic rationally based on scriptural revelation, but only up to a certain point. After that we must admit that part of it still remains a mystery.
 
In order to find a logical answer, we must turn to the early origins of mankind. God created man in His own image. Man was created good, but fell into sin and transgressed against God’s word. Man was himself guilty of the transgression. It follows from this that the transgression that took place in human nature had to be reconciled in human nature. God had to be born as a human, baby Jesus.
 
Jesus was born into the world to suffer the punishment that belonged to man, because fallen man was not, and is not, able to atone for his transgression. In other words, Jesus, who was unaffected by original sin, took the place of sinful man. He was killed, crucified, and disgraced instead of us who are sinners. Jesus – being both man and God – suffered the capital punishment on behalf of sinful humans.
 
We cannot understand with our rational mind why God humbled Himself before sinful people as an object of slander and physical violence, although He was God and the Lord of all. Why did He do it?
 
The cross is also a symbol of contradiction: God’s love required that sinful man should be pardoned, but God’s sanctity simultaneously required man to be punished. The cross is a symbol of suffering and battle within God Himself. This is why death on the cross is a big mystery. It is difficult for us to understand why God is so good and loving that He died on behalf of sinful man. We can marvel at the love of Christ all our life. God’s wisdom and power are concealed in this unfathomable  mystery. God’s actions are on a higher level than our human understanding.
 
God’s power is manifested in smallness, His power in weakness, His love in suffering, and atonement in death on the cross. This death on the cross shows that, outside our human world, there is a radically different reality inaccessible to human reason. We can only ”understand” and possess it by God-given faith. For a Christian, the cross is the key to heaven, but also a constant cause of astonishment and inquiry: why is God so good that He died on the cross for me?
 
Jaakko Ranta
Translation: S-L.L.
The blog post was published in online Päivämies on 5 March 2016

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