During this season of lent this blog will focus on pretty well one thing – the cross of Christ.
We are going to do so by working our way through a magnificent book – The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge (a wonderful name). Published in 2015, it has rightly garnered rave reviews from all quarters of the Christian spectrum.
I can’t say that I have enjoyed reading a book as much as this one for a long long time. It is 659 pages long but a gripping read from start to finish. Rutledge writs with verve, passion and scholarship in service of the Church. It is probably the most significant book on the cross since John Stott’s The Cross of Christ.
Rutledge is a retired American Episcopal priest and writes from within that context, but this is a book for the church as a whole. This is no pale liberal telling of the cross in abstract psychological or ‘spiritual’ terms, it is a robust theological tour de force designed to envision, challenge and inspire the church to recover the central place of the cross in preaching and the Christian life.
Here is a flavour to get us going
This devaluation of the preaching of the cross is, I believe, a serious deprivation for those who seek to follow Jesus … it is quite possible for a pastor to go through an entire year of Sundays and never once preach Christ crucified in any expansive way. The skandalon (offense) of the cross of which the apostle Paul spoke, and the serious and controversial issues surrounding the interpretation of the cross, have gone missing from the heart and center of our faith. This is a grave deprivation affecting not only evangelism but the shaping of the Christian life.
… It is the living significance of the death of Jesus, not the factual details concerning it as an historical event, that matters … the declaration of the apostle Paul that the word of the cross is the power of God for salvation (1 Cor. 1:18) is not a statement about a mere historical event. The preaching of the cross is an announcement of a living reality that continues to transform human existence and human destiny more than two thousand years after it originally occurred.
The cross reveals its meaning at it takes shape in the experience of believers. In the final analysis, then, this is a book written “from faith for faith”. (xvi-xvii)
… the signs of seemingly invincible evil are unusually pronounced around the world … anyone occupying a pulpit these days needs plenty of fortification. If our preaching does not intersect with the times, we are fleeing the call to take up the cross. (xiv)