I’ve been wanting to write this for a few days now. What better time you wrote about the cross of Jesus Christ than his passion week. And what better to write about the cross of Christ than Christ own theology of what it means for the world??
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. I count 33 words here, this is a very short passage. But I doubt there are 33 more important words written in the Bible. I’ve included below much more of the text so you can read it and see the context that this was spoken in. I might write more about the context this week, let’s just say for now that Jesus knew exactly what the result of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem would be. It would be triumphant indeed, but not as those shouting hosanna would have had it.
So, the theology of Jesus. The effect of the cross would fundamentally change the world. Which it did, far more than we can imagine today. But I do think it’s important to understand that the cross does not change God, it changes the world. The cross changes the world in three ways – 1). It judges the world. 2). It liberates the world. 3). It reorganizes the world.
The cross judges the world. Now is the judgment of this world. Now is the judgment of the world, and the world is found guilty. We have very little imagination to see how the world could be anything other than just how it is. But there is something very wrong with the world. It may be how it is, but it’s not as it should be.
The world as it is set up very simply – the strong dominate the weak. The principalities and powers (the very rich, the very powerful, the very religious, and the institutions and spirits behind them) use the positions of privilege to dominate the weak. They use their economic power, their military power, their financial power to dominate the rest of society.
Jesus appeared during his passion week leading up to Good Friday before all these principalities and powers. He appeared before King Herod, who controlled the treasury. Herod was the richest man in the world at the time, richer even than Caesar. He appeared before the military when he appeared before Pilate. What is truth? Pilate famously asks Jesus. Pilate himself actually answers his own question a little later – “So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”” John 19:10 ESV. To the principalities and powers, ultimate truth lies with the power to kill. And Jesus appeared before Caiaphas, the high priest of the temple, the religious leader of the time.
Jesus appeared before all 3 of the sources of power, and the result was his crucifixion on Good Friday, specifically arranged to have it over and done with before the Passover. Jesus appeared before all 3 areas of the principalities and powers, and the result was deicide, the murder of God, the greatest crime in history. That is the judgment of this world – that when God himself came walking among us, we crucified him. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:11 ESV. We are found guilty, our system is broken and corrupt, the domination of the weak by the powerful must be rejected, it is in itself a crime against God.
The cross liberates this world – now will the ruler of this world be cast out. The ruler of this world, the reason the world is organized as it is, is “the Satan”, or “the accuser”. We live in a constant state of spiritual warfare. There is the Holy Spirit – the advocate, the helper, sent by Christ – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 ESV. There is the unholy spirit of the Satan, the accuser. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:10 ESV. It is the unholy spirit of Satan, the accuser, the spirit of blame and accusation, that rules the world as we know it. It is the thief who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. As soon as Adam and Eve sin in the garden, they begin to blame – “He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” Genesis 3:11-13 ESV. Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the snake, and the whole cycle was started. Cain took the blame game to its logical end and murdered his brother, and to this day we justify all of our violence as a society by blaming the others – whoever “they” happen to be.
It is by getting us to play the blame game that the devil rules the world. Blaming and pointing fingers is his game – after all, he is “the accuser”. Satan does not care who’s right and who’s wrong. He just cares that we keep blaming and accusing.
Someone has to take the blame and forgive. It is the only way to cast out the devil from our lives. That sounds risky. But it’s how the world is liberated at the cross. Replace blame and accusation and retaliation and recrimination with forgiveness and all of a sudden, the devil can’t breathe. All the oxygen begins to be sucked out of his world. So when Jesus cries out “Father forgive them” from the cross, instead of calling out blame and praying for vengeance, he takes the blows upon himself, takes our sins unto himself, the devil is done. Jesus is innocent, but He takes the blame and forgives anyway. And the devil is out of business, he’s choked out, he’s starved to death. He is defeated, he is cast out of this world.
The cross reorganizes the world. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. Through rivalry, blame, domination, the world has been drawn into the axis of power enforced by violence. The devil teaches us to accuse our brother, and we live our lives trampling the weak underfoot. Jesus is the son of God who sings for us a new song, instead of “accuse your brother” it’s called “Love one another”. The world run by Herod, Pilate and Caiaphas, where the will to power is ultimate truth – Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you? The world organized around the power to dominate will always be a dance of death. Jesus bring a new way. Jesus absorbs the blow and takes the blame, and we are drawn to him. Instead of dancing for the devil around the axis of power enforced by violence, we are drawn to Jesus Christ and his axis of love expressed in forgiveness. This is how the cross reorganizes the world.
True freedom comes when we are drawn into the axis of love expressed in forgiveness that is the cross of Christ. We learn to bear the image of God who is Love. We love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we love our neighbors as ourselves. That is the new reorganization of the world given by Christ that can liberate and save the world.
This is how Jesus talks about his own cross. The world is found guilty. The devil is cast out. The cross reorganizes the world.
We can’t make anyone come. We can’t make anyone walk away from that axis of power expressed in violence. We can only live our lives around Jesus’ axis of love expressed in forgiveness. We can only live as forgiven sinners who are forgiving sinners. We can just love one another, and live as lights in the world. We can only be the light shining in the darkness, drawing people out of their dance with the devil into the sweet music being sung by Jesus Christ.
And yes, we will sing a new song.
“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.””
John 12:20-24, 27-32 ESV