the Ruler’s cross

According to scholars like Richard Bauckham, the Old Testament identifies the God of Israel in his uniqueness as Creator and Ruler. In this way a clear line is drawn between God and everything else. He is distinguished from (and related to) the world as its Creator and Ruler.

Remarkably, throughout the New Testament (from its earliest strata on) Jesus is placed on God’s side of the line. A first century Jewish man is included in the unique divine identity of Israel’s God. A first century Jewish man who was executed on a cross!

And this changes everything.

We have already seen how it changes the way we see our Creator and Sustainer. He doesn’t shrug and start again in redemption, consigning his good creation to the cosmic rubbish heap. And he’s not unacquainted with the suffering and evil which mars it, imprisoning and implicating us. He hasn’t turned away. Rather, he’s entered our plight. Taken it upon himself. Drained it to the dregs. And overcome it.

But the cross also changes the way we see God as our Ruler. It reveals that he’s no tyrant. A sovereign, yes. But a ‘downwardly mobile’ sovereign. For whom humility and passionate commitment to the good of his subjects comes naturally, spills over from his loving heart. Who does not treat his divine status and privilege as something to be exploited. But who pours himself out. Making himself nothing. Subjecting himself to the indignity of death on a cross.

Of course, we only recognise the significance of the cross in light of the resurrection. Even the glimpses we feel we must catch, e.g., in his nature miracles in the Gospels, are ambiguous when viewed in isolation. It is only as they find a place in the story told from the perspective of the resurrection that they speak of his sovereignty (and even then we must ask whether they speak of his divine or his human sovereignty — and how those two are related). Equally, we only see his sufferings as the sufferings of the Messiah now he’s entered into his glory (Luke 24.26).

But, on the flip side, he is only the (risen) Lord as the one who was crucified. He is only lifted up and vindicated by God as the Son who became a Servant. His kingly rule means nothing apart from his humility and obedience. Apart from the cross.

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