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MESSAGE FOR THE FORTNIGHT
 





CENTRALITY OF THE CROSS!!!-Part 1

“Jab tak rahega , Samosae mein Allu, tab thak rahega Bihar mein Lallu” (till potato remains in the Samosa, till then Lallu will remain in Bihar…an apt rustic translation befitting the person eh…) shouted the angry supporters of Lallu Prasad Yadav, the Chief of Rashtriya Janata Dal party and Ex-Chief Minister of Bihar State (the second largest in India in terms of Lok Sabha seats) some years ago (2013 to be more precise), even as he was being whisked away by the police from Ranchi High court after being convicted in the infamous fodder scam. A jail sentence of five years awaited him then, however this earthy, street-smart Political maverick has since made a strong comeback both in State and National politics!!! Now for the catchy afore-mentioned slogan… for the uninitiated Samosa with spiced, mashed potato filling in the CENTRE is an Indian snack relished by every Indian from “Kashmir to Kanyakumari”…(in the Biblical parlance the equivalent of Dan to Beersheba- 1 Sam 3:20). Really what is in the centre makes the difference in a sandwich too, isn’t it?

Now coming to the spiritual realm in this 2-parts Series, I am inspired to focus on the subjects related to the “Centrality of the Cross”. Firstly…

Of Cement and Conciliation…



Though Adam by sinking his teeth into the forbidden, through his actions conveyed to His Creator that he wanted to be wanted live independent of the of the very One who had given him life in the first place, all along the benevolent God had spoken through several ways (Heb 1:1) about the reconciliation He had planned between the estranged mankind (represented by Adam) and Him. That reconciliation would come through the Cross. In other words Cross was “central” to God’s wise plan of Salvation which would “cement” the broken relationship between Him and His prized creation (man made in His own image- Gen 1:27).

That reconciliation would come through the Cross. In other words Cross was “central” to God’s wise plan of Salvation which would “cement” the broken relationship between Him and His prized creation (man made in His own image- Gen 1:27).

With advancement of medical science, several startling medical truths are coming to the fore on routine basis. One among them is that the protein-Laminin- which binds all the cells (keeping body together as one functional unit) virtually is a Cross-shaped “cement” as though to suggest that in God’s infinitely wise mind Cross’s eternal purpose all along had been one of “binding” between two parties (Him and Mankind).

Of City and Clock…



Where else could God’s Pascal Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) die other than in God’s home (Jerusalem- Psalm 132:13-14 NLV) and what other time could He die other than at 3 pm just like the original Pascal lambs were slain in respective Jewish homes on the First Passover festival at evening time ( Exodus 12:1-6 KJV- Evening for Jews would mean 3pm-5pm)!!!

Also Jerusalem by virtue of its location in the MIDDLE of the World (Ezekiel 5:5), typified Jesus’ mediatory Ministry of bringing about reconciliation between Holy God and sinful mankind (1 Tim 2:5).

At this stage, I intend to increase the intensity of the spotlight on the subject of Adonai God (the Sovereign One seated at the throne- Isa 6:1)… it would stun many of us when we observe the sequence of events leading unto the Cross as to how the Almighty had “everything in His Sovereign control in order everything takes place at the right place and in the right time” (Acts 4:27-28). Now consider this Scripture in the background of Jesus’ arrest “in the night before His crucifixion” and Judgment of the High Priest (Matt 26:57-66). Next day morning...

“Then the entire council took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. They began to state their case: “This man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.”

So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Pilate turned to the leading priests and to the crowd and said, “I find nothing wrong with this man!”

Then they became insistent. “But he is causing riots by his teaching wherever he goes—all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem!”

“Oh, is he a Galilean?” Pilate asked. When they said that he was, Pilate sent him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction, and Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time.” (Luke 23:1-7)


MAP OF ISREAL DURING JESUS TIME




GOD'S PERFECT TIMING




CAESAREA TO JERUSALEM -112 KMS/TIBERIAS TO JERUSALEM-176 KMS/CAESAREA TO TIBERIAS – 90 KMS

Before I go any further, for the uninitiated a picture of the Geo-political “climate” at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion is essential to understand better the COMPLETE picture of God’s Sovereign control over the sequence of events.

For smooth governance, the Land of Palestine was divided by Rome into 6 provinces’ with three provinces of

    A) Galilee, Samaria and Judea (North to South in the Western side of River Jordan)

    and

    B) Iturea, Decapolis and Perea (North to South in the Eastern side of River Jordan)


While the Rome-appointed Governor for Judea and Samaria was Pontius Pilate with his headquarters at the Coastal city of CAESAREA (not Jerusalem, obviously commercial reasons influenced Rome in the matter of choosing Caesarea with a thriving port over Jerusalem), the provinces of Galilee and Perea were under the Governorship of Herod Antipas, with him stationed at TIBERIAS (we will restrict the information on the Geo-political climate to this, for this is what matters for better understanding of the afore-captioned Scripture portion).

Now consider the magnitude of God’s sovereignty over the sequence of events leading unto the Cross. If Pontius Pilate had NOT been at Jerusalem in the climactic hours before crucifixion, doubtless the Priests (virtual local rulers over Jews) would have taken Jesus to Caesarea to get the ruling of Pontius Pilate (did not the scene of action shift from Jerusalem to Caesarea when Apostle Paul was arrested – Acts 23:23-33) which is good 112 Kms away from Jerusalem and there too in the questioning process Pontius Pilate would have discovered Jesus was from Galilee and would have directed the Jesus’ accusers’ to take him to Herod Antipas in Tiberias in Galilee which is a good 90 kms away from Caesarea. Undoubtedly Herod Antipas after examining Jesus would have passed “the buck” back again to Pontius Pilate. In all this ponder for a moment… tick –tock…tick-tock… on the time ticking away. JESUS HAD TO DIE IN JERUSALEM ON THE PASSOVER DAY ONLY BETWEEN 3 PM -5 PM AT GOD’S APPOINTED TIME. Now lets go on stitching together the probable sequence of events…

Finally in Caesarea Pontius Pilate under severe pressure from the highly influential Priestly class “would have washed his hands off “ and the High priests using the Pilate and the Roman Soldiers as their tool would have crucified Jesus in Caesarea itself well after Passover time… may be 2 days LATER after the subsequent Sabbath days’ (John 19:31) were over. Bye, Bye Divine plan of God’s Paschal Lamb dying in Jerusalem at the appointed twilight time??? NO WAY!!! THE ALMIGHTY ADONAI GOD ENSURED THAT THE BOTH THE GOVERNORS (INTRUMENTAL IN DECISION MAKING PROCESS) WERE IN JERUSALEM AT THE RIGHT TIME BECAUSE EVERYTHING HAD TO OCCUR AS PER THE PRE-DESTINED UNALTERABLE DIVINE PLAN (Acts 4:27-28)!!! HALLELUJAH!!!


Adonai God can make the Earthly authorities virtually dance to His tune without even their own knowledge (Pro 21:1). The Earthly Kings may undertake to do something to achieve their own selfish ends but the Almighty can turn their actions around in such a way it would all fit His Greater plans. If not for Caesar Augustus decree to take census, Mary in advanced stage of pregnancy would not have travelled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem (for a pregnant lady a tough 90 miles journey complicated by a terrain dotted with hills and valleys), in order the Saviour is born in only in Bethlehem as per the prophecy and not anywhere else (Micah 5:2/ Luke 2:1-7).

Historically speaking during that Passover festivities both Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas came to Jerusalem for “selfish reasons” one “announced” and the other “secret”. Firstly about the former…like in modern times, even 2000 years ago the politicians were all for PUBLIC PLEASING and it was a custom for Rome appointed Governors to “identify themselves with the Jews during their most prominent Festival time…the Passover” by being at Jerusalem (the temple city) and come-up with some public-pleasing gimmicks (Matt 27:15). In the Indian context, do not our political leaders all with an eye on vote-bank go the “extra-mile” announcing sops to some communities on the occasion of their festivals and participating in some parties like “Iftar”, “Christmas” parties (Nothing has changed eh?)? Coming to the “secret” reason (now our Indian political leaders are innocent on this score), whenever lakhs of Jews are gathered in one place, one jingoistic shout “Freedom from Rome” would be sufficient to spread the wildfire of “rebellion against Rome”. So presence of large number of heavily-armed Roman soldiers on ground and mounted cavalry with gleaming swords under the personal supervision of Rome-appointed Governors would serve as a deterrent to such nationalistic uprisings besides making crowd-control process that much easier. SO THERE WERE PONTIUS PILATE AND HEROD ANTIPAS IN JERUSALEM AT THAT TIME RATHER BEING AT CAESAREA AND TIBERIAS, RESPECTIVELY. AH, THE BOTTOM-LINE IS THAT ALMIGHTY WAS IN COMPLETE CONTROL KEEPING THE AUTHORITIES IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME IN ORDER THE DIVINE REDEMPTION PLAN PREPARED EVEN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD WAS LAID WAS CARRIED OUT AT THE RIGHT PLACE AND AT THE RIGHT TIME. HALLELUJAH!!!

Now let us also cast the spotlight on the timing of the 7th word uttered by our Saviour on the Cross (Luke 23:44-46) announcing His propitiatory death. The Messiah who had said that He has the power to lay down His life voluntarily and take it back (John 10:18), was in complete control of the events surrounding Him and being the Pascal Lamb laid down His life exactly at 3 pm ( no, not even at 2:30 pm or 2:55 pm)!!!

Oh the genius of our Lord in selecting Jerusalem (the centre of the World) to be the CENTRAL PLACE AMONG ALL PLACES to complete the Redemption Work and proclaiming the Good News thereof!!! Imagine for a moment, if the Gospel proclamation had begun from say North pole or South pole, would it (Gospel) have reached the uttermost parts of the Earth in quick time but consider the ripple effect to which human history bears witness, when the Good News began to be preached from the CENTRAL CITY OF THE WORLD. There were very few places in the Planet Earth in the First Century, where Good News did not go (Rom 15:17-24).



“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” - Gal 4:4

Lay aside any doubt regarding the perfection involved in the timing of Christ’s I advent and his atoning work and marvel instead at God’s Sovereignty substantiated by the above-captioned Scripture !!! Consider these facts…the Roman Empire (the World super power at that time) had connected the then known World under its Empire with good roads and the World Super power before it –the Greece-had unified the World with a common language-Greek. Add to this, the fact that there were no irksome passport restrictions to travel from one country to another during the Roman Rule and the truth about the Gospel reaching “the ends of the World from the central city of Jerusalem” (Matt 28:18-19) in double quick time emerges clearly with no shades of doubt!!!

Let our hearts be awed by the Adonai God who controls all World events and



Condition and Conduct…



The penalty of the Cross which requires the condemned “hands and legs be fastened by the nails to it” also in a way portrays the “MIDDLEMAN” role of the Saviour for in the Cross the condemned man’s head neither touches the sky nor do his legs touch the ground (I Tim 2:5). He is right in the MIDDLE between God above and man below. Amazing, isn’t it! My Saviour paid the price in order I am liberated from both the clutches of sin and demands of the Law (I Cor 15:54-57).

When Jesus was crucified along with two other criminals, it was not for the first time nor was it for the last time that three men were being crucified simultaneously in the annals of Roman history. The intent behind putting the sinless one on the middle cross was the wicked reasoning of His enemies that he was the biggest criminal of em’ all, for middle cross would usually be assigned to the most dangerous of the three criminals. It was meant to rub salt virtually and figuratively to the copiously bleeding wounds of Christ. However the Almighty has a way of weaving even the crooked ideas’ of hard-hearted men into the overall beautiful tapestry which His Salvation plan represents. Remember how the depraved scheme of selling innocent Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders by his mean brothers worked out for the betterment of entire Jewish nation (Genesis 45:5-7)…

To the REDEMPTIVE work of Christ on the CENTRAL CROSS, historically there has always been and can be also only two types of responses as personified by the words of the two criminals who hung on either side…the one of REJECTION and other of RE-CREATION (Luke 23:38-43).

Dear Reader, when you look at the PERSON dying FOR the sins of mankind, like the hard-core criminal to the left of Jesus, you can choose to remain IN sin and look at Christ as merely a solver of worldly problems (he wanted only physical deliverance from the excruciating death). Hey, even today many would want to follow Christ if only “Prosperity Gospel” is preached as against the truthful “Adversity Gospel” (Acts 14:22 -is it not a fact that there are many takers for Prosperity Gospel, that is why “Prosperity Gospel” preachers are…. hmmmm…”prospering”)!!! However we need to respond like the repentant thief and die TO sin by accepting Jesus as the solver of the much graver, spiritual problem of sin in our lives. Yes…He would surely provide for the needs of those who make pleasing Him their number one priority (Matt 6:33).

To reject the redemptive Gospel or be redeemed by it (by repenting- Acts 2:37-38) is the choice which is kept in front of all of us. Remember the decision we take here on this side of eternity, determines our destiny on the other side of it.

Let’s learn to cast our cares upon our Adonai God who is seated on the throne and in control of everything. Yes let’s also learn to worship in awe Him who is Sovereign.



Yours in His service,


(Suresh Manoharan)






Message PART - II