The Way of the Cross
We are about to recall the suffering and death of our Lord on the cross.Why did he suffer and die? What is the meaning of his death on the cross? “He died for our sins.” This is the most common answer. This is what we believe. He died in order to free us from the power of sin and evil.
Beneath this simplistic answer, we must go deeper and consider the historical cause of his death.
His death was the consequence of his prophetic mission–of proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom, of denouncing evil in society. Like the prophets of old, Jesus and his message was rejected by the leaders of society–those who could not accept his message as good news of liberation. His prophetic act of cleansing the temple–the religious center that had become the center of economic exploitation and political domination–provoked the anger of those in power.
His death was the consequence of his kingly mission–of serving the people – especially the poor, the needy, the sick, the marginalized, the outcast. His deeds were perceived as the signs of the coming of God’s kingdom. People hailed him as the messiah. There were many who followed him and wanted to proclaim him as their king.
Jesus’ words and deeds was a threat to the established order – the Jewish religious-political order represented by the Sanhedrin, and the Roman Imperial Order represented by Pontius Pilate.
Jesus knew beforehand that if he continued his mission, there will be many who would react to his message. He knew that he would suffer and die. Yet he followed the way of the cross. He knew that this was the only way to fulfill his mission–the mission of bringing about salvation to the world. The offering his life–his body and blood–on the cross would later be interpreted as the expression of his identity and mission as high priest. He gave meaning to his sacrifice on the cross at the last supper.
As we look at Jesus on the cross we become aware of the brutal reality of sin and evil. Wherever sin and evil dominate, many–including the innocent–will suffer and die. Sin and evil perpetuate the culture of death.
Yet the cross is not the symbol of the culture of death and the triumph of evil. It is the symbol of the power of love, the greatest expression of God’s love for humankind–the highest proof of Christ’s love for all of us. It is the ultimate sign of self-sacrifice, of service.
The cross is the symbol of non-violence. Jesus gave up his life, his body and blood. But he did not take life–the life of others.
The cross shows us how sin and evil can be defeated. Not by force, not by violence and hatred, but by self-giving love.
“Anyone who wants to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
To be a disciple requires self-denial. It means saying no to our selfish nature, our sinfulness. It requires dying to self, dying to sin. The old person–the selfish, greedy and sinful self has to die, in order that the new person will be born.
Following the way of the cross means accepting all the discomfort, the rejection, suffering and even death as we carry out the mission that Christ has shared with us–the prophetic mission of proclaiming the Gospel, of denouncing and resisting evil, the mission of serving the people by our action for justice and peace.
Following the way of the cross means that as we struggle against evil, we follow the path of peace and non-violence. Like Jesus, we offer our life–our body and blood for the transformation of society. This is the cost of discipleship.
We should remember that the way of the cross does not end in Calvary. Good Friday is not the end of the story–there will always be an Easter rising. The way cross is the way of love–the way to victory. The cross is the weapon of the weak that overcame the reign of emperors, kings and dictators. This is why Christianity and the Church will never be passé.