The cross symbolizes a cosmic as well as historic truth. Love conquers the world, but its victory is not an easy one.
— Reinhold Niebuhr, 100 Days of Prayer
This year, in worship, we are reading mostly from the Gospel of Mark. If there is one central theme and truth expressed it that book, it is the one stated so well above. Early in the Gospel, Jesus seems to command everything. He heals the sick, casts out demons, commands the seas to be still and the storm to end, and confounds his enemies. He even raises the dead, as in the story of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:41-42).
The story only gets complicated, it seems, when Jesus comes face to face with human pride, greed, hatred, and unbelief. The old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” seems to be born out when Jesus came to his home town of Nazareth, and the people “took offense at him” (6:5). “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief” (6:5-6).
Jeremiah (5:21) prophesied, “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.” That thought was repeated in 1738 by Jonathan Swift in his Polite Conversation: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
The one who came as the Word of God, and with a word commanded all the forces of nature, seemed to have met his match in human sin. That victory could not be easily won. It would take a cross. It should be no surprise that our work of sharing the Gospel in a busy and conflicted world will not be an easy one. It will take nothing less than a cross.