HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsIntroduction to understanding the cross

Introduction to understanding the cross

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By Erasmus Makarimayi

Last week, we discussed the love of money being the root of all evil. I want to continue on that theme today with an interesting story which I pray will encourage us.

If you went to church as a child, you have probably heard the story. It was so popular that I remember a song we used to sing about a wee little man named Zacchaeus who climbed up in a sycamore tree to see what he could see.

Let me set the historical stage so we can better appreciate the scene. Israel had a long history of being a sovereign nation. Sure they had their times of being conquered but they took pride when they had autonomy and independence as in the great days of King David and his son Solomon when kings and queens came from afar to see the splendour of their Jewish kingdom.

By the time of Zacchaeus, the Roman empire had spread over most of the civilised world at the time, including Israel.  Imagine being independent to now being ruled by someone an ocean away. Imagine working so hard and being demanded to pay this emperor heavy taxes.

Romans were smart. They didn’t bring in a guy from Rome to collect their taxes. They hired a local guy — someone who would know the truth about how much people were really making. Someone who knew jus WHENEVER the Gospel of Christ is presented, there are basic assumptions that the presenter makes concerning the knowledge the receivers have. To exemplify this; in this presentation, I would like us to have a look at the death of Jesus. I’m assuming you know the Bible and have knowledge about Jesus and Christianity.

In order to take off, let me retract a bit. Christianity isn’t a religion. Religion is a way of trying to get to the creator. Christianity is the life of God in the heart of the believer in Christ Jesus.

In simple terms, Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” It’s God coming to His people, Emmanuel. Dear believers, we’re not trying to get to God the Father but we are celebrating the life of God in us. We have a conviction beyond guessing. Jesus stepped onto the scene to fulfil prophecy and to ascend on high as word incarnate. Divine foreknowledge had already concluded His mission and assignment.

Revelation 13:8 reads, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Grasp the part, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

John the Baptist says in John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Jesus died a sin offering and rose as the High Priest. We shall handle this later.

Jesus was holding on to the Word as written in Matthew 1:21,23, “[21] And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. [23] Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Standing on higher platform John writes, John 1:1-4, “[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

I am going through all this to get to the point where we really grasp the Man of Galilee hanging on the Cross. Galatians 3:13-14 tell us, “[13] Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: [14] That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The Law had already told us in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, “[22] And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: [23] His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”

We are seeing a picture which if clearly understood, Christianity is sweet life. While nailed to the Cross on Golgotha, eyewitnesses in the Gospels tell us what the eyes saw. Revelation of Scriptures in the epistles tells us what the human eye could not see in those three days and three nights. The cross isn’t a paraphernalia that chases demons away by putting its miniature under the pillow at night or having it as necklace. If it’s just a apparel, that’s okay. The cross is just a symbol for the Message of Christ.

Having it as part of church logo doesn’t necessarily mean that the Gospel of Christ or if you prefer the Cross is being preached. Satanists and religion also use the cross.

Demons can vex you while holding all sizes of the cross. Remember John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Grace and peace be multiplied to you through knowledge.

t how to squeeze every penny. The deal was the tax collector got a commission on how much money he received, and the Bible says Zacchaeus was a very rich man. That means he decided he would rather sacrifice his relationships with his friends and relatives. He didn’t care if he hurt them, exploited them, lied to them, or abused them. At the end of the day, he just wanted to be rich! Mission accomplished! But, he was hated in the process.

We still have our own Zacchaeus’s today – men and women who abuse their power in order to get rich at the expense of their own people. Just like in the Roman times, these people are talked about and distrusted, but at the end of the day, their faith is more in their wealth than in their popularity.

Now, here is where the story turns interesting. No one liked tax collectors. They were liars. They abused their political power. They were greedy. They were mean (how else do you squeeze people for excess money?) They didn’t have many real friends (who respects and truly trusts a man who has decided to side with the government against the welfare of his own people?)

One would think a man like Jesus who stood for love, treating your neighbour as you would want to be treated and for justice would not want to be associated with the likes of the outcast tax collector. He had chosen this life of extortion and corruption.

Then something odd happens. Jesus is walking down the road and our man, “Z”, is so short that he climbs up a tree just to see this man whom everyone was talking about. Suddenly, our kind Jesus looks up and says, “Z, I am going to eat at your house tonight!” What!? People were like “Jesus! That man is a sinner of the worst kind! So corrupt! He abuses his political power for his personal gain! He is a tax collector! (imagine the look of total disdain)

Jesus never reconsidered his decision. He chose to love Z and go against everyone’s advice to avoid him and go dine with the “sinner”. Imagine how Z felt. For years, he had been a social outcast. When he passed by, people whispered. When anyone was nice to him, he always wondered what they wanted because he didn’t have any real friends with the life he had chosen of exploitation. He was lonely. He might have regretted the choices he made to abuse his own people for material gain. But it was too late. He was a tax collector and the money was good. It was too hard to turn back. Then, Jesus did something radical. He didn’t judge him. He didn’t lecture him. Nope. Jesus accepted him. Jesus reached out to him. Jesus sought him out to befriend him.

In light of that kind of love, Z felt convicted. Z decided that the friendship of Jesus was worth all the money he had! He knew all along what was right, but he was scared to make it right. Everyone knew he had stolen money but he was scared to admit it. Jesus loved him! Jesus knew he was wrong but he loved him anyway. And he decided to do the right thing. He decided to give back all the money he had stolen. That must have been so hard to do the right thing.

Money he had worked so hard for, lost so many relationships for… why give it back? Because when you truly understand the love Jesus has for you then you understand that money pales in comparison. Maybe today you know what you have been taking. You know you are wrong, but you aren’t motivated to make it right.

Please be encouraged that same Jesus who sought out Z seeks you out, loves you as you are, and making things right with him and those around you is worth you returning any ill-gotten gain. It will not be easy, but Z’s story shows it is worth it to gain eternal salvation. “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” Mark 8:36

 

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