Preparation for Worship
Throughout this whole series we have been repeating the same theme week after week in different ways: the cross is not just the place where Jesus died; the cross shows us how to live. Unfortunately, it is much more common among American Christians to focus on the cross solely as the place where Jesus died and saved me from my sins. We rightly emphasize that Jesus accomplished everything necessary on the cross for our salvation- therefore there is nothing left to be accomplished and we can rest in his finished work. But when the cross of Jesus remains only an event in the past that I trust in, the cross does not really affect or change anything about my present way of living. I can go on living the way I want to, as long as I am trusting in the finished work of Jesus long ago on the cross. I’m happy for Jesus to have borne his cross for me, but I never get onto a cross myself.
For Paul, the cross is meant to not just be the place where Jesus died, but the cross must now be the new pattern of life for every person who trusts in Jesus. I am called not only to believe in Jesus, but to become like Jesus, as I am made one with him and follow his pattern. I am to listen to him every day when he says, “Anyone who would come after me must take up his cross and follow me.” Or as Deitrich Bonhoeffer put it, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Paul was distressed because the Corinthians Christians were patterning their life after the ways of Corinth, which celebrated celebrity, hubris, success and personal freedom. He called them back to the way of the cross, which involves humility, obedience, sacrifice, and above all, love.
Finally, Paul comes to the great epic ending of his letter. He ends his letter that has been so occupied with the cross by proclaiming the resurrection. Jesus went the way of the cross, but it did not end in death. It ended in resurrection. This event does two amazing things for us. First, it guarantees that Jesus is indeed the awaited Messiah and in him the powers of sin and death have been defeated forever, and that our future is hopeful. Second, it shows us that the way of Jesus is indeed the way to life. Life lived for self may feel great but will always end in death. Life given away for the love of God and others will always end in gaining everything. The resurrection demonstrates that as we follow Jesus in the way of the cross, the destination is always hope. The cruciform life is worth it because it ends in resurrection.
Our weekly worship guide can be found here.
1 Corinthians 15: 13-19
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.