Tag Archives: The Cross

A Thin Violence in the Desire to Influence?

A Thin Violence in the Desire to Influence

The way is down, friends. This way to freedom.

What does it mean to “influence?” The dictionary reads: “…the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.”

How do we look at it, at the process of influence? What’s our first visual image? Someone with charisma and someone with a little less than? Someone with a good answer and someone with a little less than? Someone with _______ and someone with a little less than?

Is it the “strong” making something happen in the “weak?”

But, friends, what is “strong?” What is Continue reading

Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross (John)

(The conclusion of a short series: comparing four views of the cross from the four Gospel writers.)

“John ‘spiritualizes’ the cross more than the synoptic [Matthew, Mark and Luke] authors do, stressing the intimate connection between Jesus’ crucifixion and his exaltation. The life of the Son of God is best understood as a journey: he comes from his preexistent state in heaven, dwells among women and men, then returns to heaven. In essence, John overcomes the scandal of the cross by interpreting in terms of Jesus’ exaltation (12.32-36). Of spiritual significance for believers are the moments on the cross when Jesus confers a familial relationship on the beloved disciple and Mary, then gives up his spirit (19.26, 30). Orthodox Christian faith sees the establishment of the Church and Christian tradition in these acts. Christian spirituality is thus understood to be informed by Jesus’ spirit.” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, “Cross and Spirituality”, Elizabeth Koenig, p. 221.

I think we can agree that John’s take on the cross (and so much else about Jesus) is a bit different than the other Gospel writers – but we love his perspective all the same.

As you remember reading John’s description of the cross, how do you relate to what Koenig wrote? I found the Orthodox conferring of the spirit part most intriguing.

This concludes the short series comparing the four Gospels and four views on the cross. I hope the brevity and the resource was helpful. I enjoyed thinking through this myself.

Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross (Luke)

(Series Continued)

“Luke brings two distinctive emphases [on the cross]. One the one hand, he inserts a psychological and spiritual theme when Jesus says, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’ (9.23) [quoted author's emphasis]. On the other hand, Luke’s identification of Jesus’ passion as that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah emphasizes the salvation-historical necessity of the cross, the universality of his mission, and highlights Jesus’ exaltation and vindication as the salvific event (24.46-47). Spiritually, this suggests that believers should mirror that universality through gracious acceptance of others, Gentiles, Jews, and criminals in particular. Moreover, they should also embody the righteousness, humiliation, and lowliness of the Servant.” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, “Cross and Spirituality”, Elizabeth Koenig, p. 221.

When I read this description of the cross and Luke’s gospel, I think about the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. In those stories we see God in Jesus coming to embrace us, redefine solidarity with us, and send us loved in order to love.

How do you resonate?

Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross (Mark)

(We continue our journey looking at brief descriptions of the view of the cross from the four gospels.)

“The spiritual theme for Mark is discipleship even to the cross. He understands Jesus’ ministry to involve an inevitable sequence of events whose climax is Golgotha. Through the cross, Jesus is made known as the Son of God who wins salvation for the new community of faith – a community called to follow him in faithful discipleship. Thus, Jesus’ call to follow him is equivalent to an invitation to take the way of the cross. ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (8.34-38).” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality p.221.

I’m once again enamored with Elizabeth Koenig’s description of a Gospel writer’s take on the cross – this time from Mark.

How do you resonate? Where does the imagery of Mark’s gospel take you mentally? How do you feel about the imitation of Christ to the point of a cross?

Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross (Matthew)

Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross (Matthew)

(The beginning of a short series comparing four views on the cross from the four Gospels.)

“Matthew values Jesus’ obedience to God, his steadfastness in his mission and his solidarity with the pain and hope of his people. Jesus’ death on the cross continues his life and work and anticipates the future kingdom of God. Moreover, Matthew testifies that Jesus predicted both his death and the kingdom during the Last Supper in promising his disciples that he would ‘never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom’ (26.29). The community that lives after him is asked to live spiritually in relation to Jesus and in the light of God’s kingdom by loving one another as Jesus loved them.” _The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality_ p. 221.

As you and I think about how we’ve seen Jesus portrayed in Matthew’s gospel, do you feel that Elizabeth Koenig (the author of the quote above) gets its pretty much right?

I find this insightful. It is helpful for me to contemplate and wonder: who is Jesus and what is he up to?

Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross

Four Gospels | Four Views on the Cross

“Each of the four Gospels interprets the meaning of the cross differently, eliciting a distinct spiritual response.” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, p.220.

Over the next four days, I want to share brief thoughts I’ve found in The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. I’ll share four views on the cross from four Gospel writers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and responses.

The Kingdom and the Cross (by James Bryan Smith) | A Book Review

 How can something so central seem so overlooked? How can a moment of redemption feel so undefined, so forgotten, so underappreciated?

For those who rely on Jesus, what do you believe about atonement and justification? What have people taught you about the purpose of the cross?

As I have wrestled with those questions, I have discovered a very open, very loose feeling story – a story that seems to have so many answers, so many perspectives out there. This story of “The Cross” and redemption is also something I’ve heard many of us struggle to spell out and re-tell.

Really, if someone were to ask you, “What’s the point of the cross?” how would you respond? Do you feel comfortable with your reply?

In The Kingdom and the Cross, James Bryan Smith writes a short devotional piece that helps us pause and wonder. His work is designed to inspire contemplation rather than meditation (that is, a state of wonder in the face of beauty). It is a little book that helped me pause. It doesn’t have endless lists of Scripture verses, but aims for simple statements and stories; it doesn’t take us through the trenches of historical development of atonement theories, but rather invites us to pause in front of art and icons, seeing through artistic windows the depth and grace of redemption.

…perhaps that’s just what we need these days – a few less arguements and pride-inspired correctness, and more dwelling with the Father because of Jesus, which seems to be the point of the cross anyway.

I decided to read The Kingdom and the Cross because our church will be spending the coming season of Lent exploring God’s love for us in the cross. I have been spending time with other authors, like John Stott, on the topic of the cross, and was delighted to read Smith’s writing. I trust and appreciate Smith’s articulation and simplicity and found his devotional book fitting for the coming season. As I’ve been exploring atonement, justification, and the cross, Smith’s simplicity was refreshing – as though he was breathing the kind of life that the cross intended to bring.

For future readers of The Kingdom and the Cross, I recommend pairing Smith’s book with a good study of the four Gospel endings. Get into Scripture and let Smith’s work expound on what’s going on there. I think that would be an enriching experience for any group.