It’s time to round off my sustained attempt to tie what we say about God’s achievement in the cross to the reality of who Jesus is. So I want to say a few things about the cross belonging to the Redeemer.
First, if we believe that the cross is the Redeemer’s then we also believe it belongs to the God of the exodus from Egypt.
This connection shouldn’t really surprise us. Israel’s prophets spoke kept pointing to the exodus as the paradigm for God’s future action for the sake of his name, people and creation. And when Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of a handful of disciples, what he discussed with Moses and Elijah was the ‘departure’ (or exodus) he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.
But this means that we not only have to reckon with the fact that in Jesus we’re dealing with the same God who defeated Pharaoh, sanctified a people for himself, promised them a land (in fulfilment of an earlier promise) and instructed them in the way to live. We also have to reckon with the fact that Jesus is on about the same things: defeating evil, liberating human life, constituting a people for fellowship with the living God, and — if we take the link back to the Abrahamic promise seriously, setting it in the universalising context of Genesis 1-11 — healing and reclaiming God’s broken world.
Second, the cross, however, speaks a decisive word about the Redeemer’s character — putting a whole new spin on it.
The might and strength he uses to effect this new exodus is exerted in what we can only call (humanly speaking) weakness, brokenness and failure. It’s the might and strength of love. A cross-shaped omnipotence that plumbs the depth of human cowardice, disgrace and even monstrosity. And in doing so it re-etches the coin of our common humanity at the point where it is most defaced. More, it pieces together a renewed people of the living God out of the shattered ruins of their rejection of him. And it unleashes the power of the new/renewed creation as the promised Holy Spirit is poured out.
Third, and as a result of this, the cross discloses the deepest truth about redemption itself.
Ultimately, God’s achievement in Christ is not about replacing the tyranny and distortion of sin with an equal and opposite tyranny and distortion. Rather, it’s about freeing us. Striking off the chains of fear and petty ambition. And enabling us (finally) to be who we were created and destined to be — to worship God and share in perfecting the creation…