The Cross as a Sword
in Lisa’s own words, “perhaps this is the most important” chapter in this book. Why? Because the cross is the crux of our faith. Lisa’s analogy of the cross to a sword helps us not only further understand the cross, but takes us to deeper levels of realizing just what Christ accomplished for us on the cross.
The Blood deals with what we have done, whereas the Cross deals with what we are. the Blood disposes of our sin, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin. –Watchman Nee (Fencing Manual, p. 63)
How does the cross address what we are? How does the cross strike the root of our capacity for sin?
Our group really wrestled through these first two questions… I think because we all came at the questions from different perspectives. That left us with some really great conversation and thoughts. I took the question pretty literally, focusing on the what we are, and came up with “are we believers or aren’t we?” Others came up with responses like we are saved; we are heirs. In the end, it seemed we were all letting the cross define us, one way or the other.
The more difficult question about how the cross strikes the root of our capacity to sin led me to think about how at the root, we’re all human, sinners. But once we come to the cross we’re changed…we can become like Him. We no longer have to be driven by that root of sin, led by anger, guilt, shame, selfishness. At the cross, we can be driven by His love.
Lisa says, “The cross bridged the gaping chasm between heaven and earth to reconcile God and man and went on to transform what appeared to be a horrific defeat into a stunning triumph.” (FM, p. 64)
The chapter flows from there to a comparison of a sword to the cross. Picture a sword pierced into the ground (we thought of Sword in the Stone images). Without the full length of the blade, sticking up out of the ground, the sword with its hilt looks a lot like a cross.
So, what’s a hilt? Very simply, it is the end of the sword that consists of the pommel, grip, and cross-guard. Have you ever heard the phrase that “something” is to the hilt? We get that saying from fencing/sword-fighting. Lisa explains that when a swordsman strikes his opponent with much strength, his blade can enter all the way to the hilt. It’s a sure kill-shot.
Here’s a biblical use of that phrase:
“When God made his promise to Abraham, he backed it to the hilt, putting his own reputation on the line….” Hebrews 6:13, The Message
Lisa connects Adam and Jesus through this comparison, “God used the cross as a sword to put to an end the hostility Adam created between God and man.” (FM, p. 66)
Once we see this connection between the cross and a sword, Lisa wants us to shift our focus to who is to be blamed for the cross. Some might say Satan, while others would blame the Jewish leaders or even the people of Jesus’ day. One at our table said SHE was responsible for the cross because Jesus bore HER sins. My takeaway is that all those answers are correct.
And as we learned last week, very often our enemy lurks in the background of life, taking advantage of our weaknesses. He was aware of Scripture and knew very clearly who Jesus was, which was why Satan worked so hard to eliminate this threat. (Think: Herod’s edict to kill all baby boys when Jesus was born, Satan’s temptations of Jesus while in the wilderness, or Judas’ betrayal [see John 13:27].) He could have even been capitalizing on the greed of the Pharisees and chief priests.
That group, those religious leaders, can also be blamed for the cross. Scripture tells us in Matthew 21:38-39 that these leaders wanted the inheritance of God’s kingdom that Jesus had the true, rightful claim to. They wanted to steal the inheritance. (see bottom of page for more discussion on “inheritance”) Their greed fueled that desire, as did their fear of all that Jesus represented, a threat to their own power and influence. Lisa points out that while these religious leaders thought that by killing God’s Son they would get to steal His inheritance, what ended up happening was they BECAME His inheritance (FM, p. 68).
Who else has blame in Jesus’ death on the cross? In Acts 10:39 Paul says the Jewish people were the ones who crucified Jesus — they did, after all, choose him over a criminal when given a choice. And 1 Peter 2:24 says that Jesus bore our sins on the cross, so I think my friend was right. In some way, those who have sinned are to blame for Jesus’ death on the cross…and that’s all of us! So… once again all responses are right…
Lisa makes this statement, “Through His death we became His inheritance.” Are we God’s inheritance? Zechariah 2:12 says that WE are God’s portion. So, yes, we become God’s inheritance when we come to the cross, when we accept Jesus. In other words, WE become a gift, a blessing, a portion to God when we enter into His family, His presence.
If that seems a stretch to you, consider 1 Corinthians 2:7, “…we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory (ESV).” Other versions say “we speak,” “we pass on,” “we are setting forth,” and “we declare.” IN us is a wisdom from God, and we have an active role in its use. And when we consider that this wisdom was given to us “before the ages,” we realize God has gone before us with this gift, this inheritance.
The cross was woven into heaven’s mysterious tapestry of eternal wisdom. This magnificent rendering of His love continuously unfolds and reveals itself.
Jesus was our Lamb before sheep were created…
Savior of our earth before the world was founded…
We were chosen to be spotless “in Him” before our sins made us scarlet! (FM, p. 69)
Sisters, we are valued, treasured. We’ve been given an inheritance, AND we are God’s inheritance.
Have you ever noticed that the people around Jesus were surprised by His resurrection? Let us not be surprised, and let us not think that the cross was a back-up plan that God came up with after Adam (and Eve’s) sin.
“The cross was always part of the plan….The exchange on the cross shifted us from death in Adam to life in Christ.” (FM, p. 70)
When Paul, in Galatians, said that he was crucified with Christ, he was speaking figuratively, but it illustrates the truth of what it means to be a Christian. We leave our old lives behind when we follow Jesus — we die to ourselves. But then we come to know new life, new freedom through Christ. We are resurrected with Christ. This truth, our resurrection with Christ, is what caught Satan by surprise. I love the irony that he thought he’d defeated the Son of God with His death on the cross, but what really happened was LIFE — life for Jesus and life for any and all who believe in Him. And all this work was done at the cross!
Ever wonder why a cross? Why would God choose an era of history whose form of execution was a cruel cross?
I think there are multiple reasons. One might be that a cross was a very public form of execution — and for God’s purposes, He needed a public execution so there would be a lot of eye-witnesses.
Another reason might be because a crucifixion is most excruciating, painful, and humiliating. God is not a sadist, but He did want to make a point…to us. He wanted us to be sure we knew JUST HOW MUCH He loves us. He loved us so much that He gave us His Son, and He gave Him to us in the most horrible, debasing way. That’s how much He loves us.
And it might be because the cross is a recognizable symbol, across the ages. We still have them (and wear them) today. And the cross stands out – it’s unique and ancient (today). I just don’t think a noose or a blade would say the same thing if it dangled from the chains around our necks.
What do you think? Why the cruel cross?
“Jesus did nothing to deserve punishment, and we did nothing to deserve His sacrifice. He was rejected, betrayed, pierced, crushed, and beaten–whipped, oppressed, then crucified.
The rulers of the age thought the cross was Jesus’ end; they had no idea it was their beginning. The cross is the sword of love.” (FM, p. 75)
Living in the shadow of that sword of love,
Further discussion on “inheritance” and “portion” :
Let’s go back to that inheritance idea. What is this “inheritance” that the Jewish leaders wanted to steal? Inheritance goes back to the original twelve tribes and the land God promised them. The land, quite literally, was Israel’s inheritance, and each tribe was given a portion. Over and over in the Old Testament these two words are used in reference to the land God gave the people (examples: Joshua 19:49, Isaiah 61:7). The priests were different. They were not considered part of one of the 12 tribes; instead, a portion of land was given for the temple and the priests’ “inheritance” were the first fruits of the people, their offerings (see Ezekiel 45:4-6).
Further into the Old Testament the idea of inheritance took on a more spiritual meaning. For instance, David said that God was his inheritance (Psalm 16:5, 73:26, 119:57, 142:5). Prophets like Jeremiah played with both meanings, connecting a well-understood reality, the land as inheritance, to a harder to understand spiritual truth: God is our portion/inheritance (Jeremiah 5:19).
The chief priests of Jesus’ day were no different — they lived this out, finding wealth and power in their “inheritance” of the people’s offerings and fear. Jesus was a threat to the system that made them who they were.