Pierced, crushed, chastised: Embracing the offense of the cross

Meredith Flynn —  April 14, 2014

COMMENTARY | Jonathan Davis

Jesus_forpage1

WHAT A SAVIOR – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Sculpture by Libby Morecraft of Harrisburg

Our culture loves blood. The latest vampire novel, graphic movies, every CSI crime drama, the nightly news – they’re all pictures painted in blood. Even the walking dead are promoting a bloody afterlife every Sunday night on cable. But our culture’s bloodthirst is biting into the wrong vein.

As God’s people, we also are to be marked as lovers of blood. Not because of an obsession with gore, but because of the Savior who shed his life’s blood
on our behalf.

Yet, for some reason, we often shy away from the bloody language of the cross. Our culture, so fascinated with blood stories, turns away from the most
important blood lines of all. Talk of the cross is offensive to many, and to bring up the blood as central to faith will bring many conversations to a halt. And
rather than offend, some Christians will stick to the more polite apologetic: Jesus loves you, and has a great plan for your life.

But that’s a bloodless Christianity. And a bloodless Christianity is no Christianity at all.

Flesh and blood isn’t just Easter language; it is Gospel language to be used at all times and in all places. We are to embrace the bloodiness of Scripture, for to do opposite is quite dangerous.

Our bloody theology

The Bible presents us with a robust theology of blood. Because Christ was crucified, we reap a multitude of benefits for His glory and our good.

• We once were people without hope, but have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13).

• In Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 3:24-25; Ephesians 1:7).

• We have been justified by Christ’s blood (Romans 5:9).

• We have peace with God by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20).

From Adam and Eve’s first sacrifice outside the garden to our High Priest’s completed work, and everywhere in between, the history of God’s people is marked by blood. For several thousand years, it’s the blood of animals, offered as a covering for sins. And finally, it’s the once-and-for-all sacrifice that
washes whiter than snow.

When it comes to salvation, nothing but blood will do.

Maybe the most startling example of flesh and blood language in the Bible is found in John 6. Jesus tells his followers they must eat his flesh and drink his
blood. On the surface, it’s a revolting concept. “Is he advocating cannibalism?” they must be thinking.

Then, at his last meal with the disciples, Jesus enacts the teaching, tying together eternal life with eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Jesus notes that
we are abiding in him when we do so. To commune with Christ is to embrace this bloody language.

Now, it’s not too hard for us to talk about the crucifixion and the blood this time of year, especially in our churches. At Easter, the person and work of Jesus
come to the forefront of our minds, and rightly so. This is the time of year we celebrate Christ’s crucifixion, and it makes sense that flesh and blood speech
is on our lips.

But what concerns me is our post-Easter language, and how we share the Gospel with people who don’t know Christ. Too often, we avoid talking about Christ’s suffering, and in doing so, we drain our faith of its very power.

Power in the blood

The next time you’re on break at the water cooler, try dropping this line from Jesus into the conversation: “Hey, did you know that Jesus said, ‘Unless you
eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’”

I can hear the crickets chirping.

The Corinthians felt the shame of flesh and blood preaching, and this led them away from boasting in the cross to boasting in worldly wisdom. Preaching
a crucified king sounded so un-wise that they forsook the very message they had heard and believed.

But Paul argues that crucifixion language is the very language the Holy Spirit empowers. He had come to the Corinthian believers in weakness and fear. His speech and message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Corinthians 2:3-4).

We must recover that kind of speech in our churches and as we go out into the world. Sin is serious, so serious that it warrants death. This is why there is
great danger in bloodless Christianity. To remove the bloody language of the cross is to remove man’s only hope of being made right with God.

The Gospel of the cross is the good news that God is holy, you are not, and the necessary sacrifice to make you right with God is found in Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

As believers we have tasted and seen the goodness of salvation applied to our hearts, and our desire is to see the lost know this same salvation. Is talking
about the cross offensive? Yes. Is it difficult to speak? Yes.

But let’s not run from it. Rather, let us press into it, speaking Christ and Him crucified plainly and with conviction, trusting the Holy Spirit to draw the lost to the Father through the Son.

When we do, people will begin to understand there’s power in the blood.

Jonathan Davis pastors Delta Church in Springfield.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.