Crucified with Christ
This is the second article in a three-part series that encourages readers to take a fresh look at Gethsemane, Calvary, and the Resurrection to consider how identifying with Jesus in His journey can keep you focused and faithful in yours.
Jesus’ life and ministry on earth were all about identification with humanity. From His humble manger birth to the wilderness temptations, He identified with our humanness, our struggles, and our weaknesses. As the Bible says, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all — all but the sin (Hebrews 4:15, The Message).”
Jesus said that our following Him would involve a cross of our own: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). In life, there are certain “crosses” to bear — certain hardships, conflicts, and limitations. There is a big difference, however, between carrying a cross and being crucified on one. The difference can be summed up in one word: nails.
In order to live for God and His purposes, I must first die to myself. In order to be crucified with Christ, three “nails” must pierce my soul to the point of death.
THE NAIL OF FORGIVENESS
We are never more like God than when we forgive; and never more unlike Him than when we won’t. It takes divine grace to help us forgive the people we find the most difficult to forgive. In order to forgive, it is essential to identify with this moment in Jesus’ life and ask: Who could be harder to forgive than the person driving a nail into Christ’s innocent soul? If Jesus could forgive them, then surely I can forgive.
Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” has on many occasions helped me move toward forgiving others. When I am offended, my natural instinct is retaliation. Early 19th century missionary William Ward summed it up well: “We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.”
Jesus’ prayer looked beyond the individual offense and considered the heart, the soul and the need of the offender. As author and psychologist Archibald Hart says, “Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.”
THE NAIL OF MYSTERY
Jesus spent the last three hours on the Cross in absolute darkness. When Jesus asked the question of His Heavenly Father — “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” — we never read of Him receiving an answer.
Questions fill our lives for which we often struggle to find answers: What is the reason for this obstacle in my way? Why did I get laid off from work? Why hasn’t my prayer been answered yet?
The reason is mystery. In the Information Age. One of the most difficult things for us to accept is that we don’t have all of the answers. God possesses something we do not: omniscience. He knows everything about us, from the first chapter to the last.
At the darkest hours of the cross, when Jesus felt alone and without God in this world, He had fully and finally found himself identified with mankind in all of humanity’s lostness, loneliness and separation from God.
God never rebuked Jesus for expressing His anguish of soul, or for asking such a question. Jesus struggled on the Cross, but His struggle was toward God and not away from Him; there is no sin in that. Sometimes the challenges of our lives raise questions that haunt us to the core. But Jesus knew the secret to navigating the hardships of life: trust. He looked beyond the present crisis and trusted in a Father who can use everything in our lives — the blessings and the struggles — to work His greater purpose.
THE NAIL OF SURRENDER
Instead of fearing death, Jesus committed His spirit into the safekeeping of His Heavenly Father. At the Cross, His spirit faced things too terrible for us to conceive. But Jesus did not face them alone. Though His soul felt the sting of separation, His will remained fastened with faith. When His spirit was overwhelmed even to the point of death, He chose to commit His spirit to the Father.
I have often found great comfort in “committing” whatever I am facing to the Lord. When I find myself overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting in the 21st century, I can say, “Father, into Your hands I commit my children.” When my work schedule has me backed into a corner, I say, “Father, into Your hands I commit my calendar.” The apostle Paul clearly was in the habit of committing his struggles to the Lord, for he affirmed, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12, NKJV).
On the Cross, Jesus completely identified with our needs. That’s what the Savior of the world does. Now He calls us to identify with Him in His life, death, and resurrection. That’s what a follower of Christ does.
We tend to hurry past the Cross and want to rush to the Resurrection. That’s understandable. The Resurrection represents the victory, but there is so much to consider and experience at the Cross. A hard look at the truth opens our hearts to drink more deeply of God’s grace. Unless we look long enough at the Cross, the Resurrection will never mean nearly as much to us as it did to Christ.
Robert C. Crosby is president of Emerge Counseling Ministries based in Akron, Ohio. Emerge has been providing counseling for over 45 years. Emerge also directs The HelpLine, a global call-in counseling support line for AG pastors and their family members. Crosby is the author of several books, including The One Jesus Loves, When Faith Catches Fire, and The Teaming Church. Contact Emerge Counseling at emerge.org or at 800-621-5207.