Jesus Centred Part 3 – God Looks like Jesus on the Cross – Power

Jesus Centred Part 3 – God Looks like Jesus on the Cross – Power

The Old Testament has numerous stories of violence that we would never associate with Jesus of Nazareth. Can you imagine Jesus, who taught and demonstrated enemy love, also condoning genocide? Can you imagine the Jesus who said, “Let the children come to me” also condone stoning children to death if they disobeyed their parents? As we have spoken about in Part 1 and 2 of this series, any picture of God we have, must submit to the revelation of Jesus. This begs the question, “What was going on in the violent Old Testament passages?” 

Today I want to show how Jesus on the cross, is the perfect example of the power of God, and how we can use this same picture of “God Power” to translate the violent and inconsistent pictures of God found in The Old Testament. 

The Power of God

Jesus on the cross is the ultimate example of the power of God. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul says that Jesus suffering on the cross looked weak and foolish to the world, however it was this very suffering that was the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1) Jesus explains this further while teaching His disciples about leadership and power, 

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

As Jesus hung upon the cross it looked like He was defeated. It looked like His power had run out. The New Testament reads as though Satan was dictating terms. Judas had betrayed Jesus, the religious and political leaders had conspired to kill Him, and now Jesus was hanging upon a cross with His disciples fearing the revival was finished. The crowds mocked and taunted Him. “You saved others! Why not save yourself?” (See Matthew 27) Indeed, it sounds like a great question, why would Jesus not reveal His power now? Was Jesus held down by a demonic power He could not resist? 

However, Jesus knew what He was doing. Although He submitted to humanities bad idea, He did so voluntarily and in complete control. In John 10:18 Jesus says that no one can take His life from Him, rather He lays it down voluntarily. Jesus demonstrates what power looks like, He voluntarily lays down His life in service of others. It was precisely in Jesus suffering that He revealed the power of God!

The power of God is not forceful or coercive. Rather it is meek. It is invitational. It is full of love. The Apostle Paul knew this and said in Romans 2:4, “Don’t you know that it is the kindness of God that leads you to repentance?” Jesus models what power in the Kingdom of God looks like. It stays relationally connected with the intent purpose of revealing truth and grace in Jesus Christ. Thus, on the cross, 

God voluntarily submits to our will, 
with the intent of staying relationally connected, 
so that we will eventually end up in the truth of Jesus.

The Old Testament
This pattern of God voluntarily submitting to humanity in order to stay relationally connected, and to lead people to faith in Christ is visible throughout the Old Testament. God often used people’s ideas (even if they were bad) to turn them towards the end goal of faith in Christ. Let me give you some examples,

The people of God wanted priests even though God wanted everyone to be a priest, but He gave them Priests. (Exodus 19) 

The people of God wanted a Temple even though God did not want a temple, but He gave them a Temple. (2 Samuel 7, Isaiah 66, Acts 7 and 17)

The people of God wanted a King even though God did not want a King, but He gave them a King. (1 Samuel 8)

In these examples, God voluntarily stooped to the level of the people, and relents. However, He does so with purpose. The priestly system, the King and the Temple all point to Jesus the Great High Priest, The King and His Kingdom. Jesus then announces that He had come to fulfil them. (Matthew 5:17, 12:6) The Apostle Paul echoes this by saying the law was given to us as a school master to bring us to faith in Christ. (Galatians 3:24) God allowed humanity to dictate terms, (or so we thought) so that He could remain connected, with the end desire of bringing all to faith in Christ.

Thus, on the surface, many Old Testament passages do not reveal the true heart or nature of God. While many will attribute violence towards God, this was not what God was doing. Indeed, God was at work, just not in the way the people thought. These passages invite us to look deeper in order to see what God was doing. Jesus affirms this belief in Luke 9:54-56. After being rejected in a Samaritan village the disciples asked Jesus, 

“Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (NKJV)

Jesus’ disciples were expecting God to respond in the same way that was recorded in The Old Testament. However, Jesus not only rebukes them for thinking in such a way, He attributes that sort of violent thinking to an entirely different spirit than that of God! 

Jesus Sermon on the Mount continues this new ethic, this new way of living that was incredibly different to what The Old Testament had taught. Time after time, Jesus said, “You have heard it said… But I say to you.” Jesus took Old Testament concepts and replaced with them with radical expressions of love demonstrated by enemy-loving, non-violence. These were not just teachings for His disciples, this was a description of what God is like. Jesus was the ultimate demonstration of this as He hung upon the cross. 

The power of God is not revealed through violent displays. Rather, the power of God is found in Jesus on the cross. True power is the story of God who voluntarily submits to humanities bad ideas at great cost to self. However, by staying relationally connected, God works things together to bring us to faith in Christ – the Prince of Peace. God has always acted this way, and encourages us to read beneath the surface of violent texts and instead see the image of God revealed in Christ, who clearly demonstrates that,

God voluntarily submits to our will, 
with the intent of staying relationally connected, 
so that we will eventually end up in the truth of Jesus.

Now that is power!

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