01 Apr Words of Grace – John Stott “The Centrality of the Cross”
Join us in private and family devotion as we prepare for public worship on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
This Holy Week, we will let John Stott guide us through the New Testament message of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Each day this week you will receive a Words of Grace email with a devotional reading from Through the Bible, Through The Year, by John Stott. These readings will also be posted on the church website so you can refer back to them at anytime.
May these readings help inform your mind and move your heart with the gospel message that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, that he was buried, and that he rose from the dead on the third day” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).
“I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2
Anybody who investigates Christianity for the first time is immediately struck by its emphasis on the death of Jesus and especially by the disproportionate amount of space that the evangelists devote to the last week of his life.
The Gospel writers had learned this emphasis from Jesus himself. On three separate and solemn occasions Jesus predicted his death, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things . . . and . . . be killed” (Mark 8:31). It must happen, he insisted, because it had been foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus also referred to his death as his “hour,” the hour for which he had come into the world. At first he repeated that it was “not yet,” but at last he was able to say that “the hour has come.”
Perhaps most striking of all is the fact that Jesus made deliberate provision for how he wished to be remembered. He instructed his disciples to take, break, and eat bread in memory of his body to be broken for them, and to take, pour out, and drink wine in memory of his blood to be shed for them. Death spoke from both elements. No symbolism could be more self-evident. How did he want to be remembered? Not for his example or his teaching, not for his words or works, not even for his living body or flowing blood, but for his body given and blood shed in death.
So the church has been right of its choice of symbol for Christianity. It could have chosen any one of several optionsfor example, the crib, symbolizing incarnation; or the towel, symbol of humble service; or others. But it passed them by in favor of the cross.
The choice of the cross as the supreme Christian symbol was all the more remarkable because in Greco-Roman culture the cross was an object of shame. How, then, could the apostle Paul say that he gloried in it? This is the question to which we will seek an answer this week.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 1:17-25
John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), p. 264.