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Close to the Cross - But Far From Christ

by Joyce Kokaisel

A friend gave me No Wonder They Call Him the Savior –  a book written by Max Lucado over 30 years ago. This message so spoke to me and what I have always believed!

The following is a message from that book: 

Close to the Cross ------ But Far from The Christ 

There was some dice – throwing that went on at the foot of the cross.

Imagine the scene. The soldiers are huddled in a circle, eyes turned downward. The criminal above them forgotten. They gamble for some used clothes. The tunic, the cloak, the sandals are all up for grabs. Each soldier lays his luck on the hard earth, hoping to expand his wardrobe at the expense of a cross-killed carpenter.

I’ve wondered what that scene must have looked like to Jesus. As he looked downward past his bloody feet at the circle of gamblers, what did he think? What emotions did he feel? He must have been amazed. Here are common soldiers witnessing the world’s most uncommon event and they don’t even know it. As far as they’re concerned, it’s just another Friday morning and he is just another criminal. “Come on, hurry up; it’s my turn!”

“All right, all right – this throw is for the sandals.”

Casting lots for possessions of Christ. Heads ducked. Eyes downward. Cross forgotten.

The symbolism is striking. Do you see it?

It makes me think of us. The religious. Those who claim heritage at the cross. I’m thinking of all of us . Every believer in the land. The stuffy. The loose. The strict. The simple. Upper church. Lower church. “Spirit-filled.” Millenialists. Evangelical. Political. Mystical. Literal. Cynical. Robes. Collars. Three-piece suits. Born-againers. Ameners.

      I’m thinking of us.

      I’m thinking that we aren’t so unlike those soldiers. (I’m sorry to say.)

We, too, play games at the foot of the cross. We compete for members. We scramble for status. We deal out judgements and condemnations. Competition. Selfishness. Personal gain. It’s all there. We don’t like what the other did so we take the sandal we won and walk away in a huff.

       So close to the timber yet so far from the blood.

 We are so close to the world’s most uncommon event, but we act like common crapshooters huddled in bickering groups and fighting over silly opinions.

How many pulpit hours have been wasted on the trivial? How many churches have tumbled at the throes of miniscuity? How many leaders have saddled their pet peeves, drawn their swords of bitterness, and launched into battle against brethren over issues that are not worth discussing?

        So close to the cross but so far from Christ.

We specialize in “I am right” rallies. We write books about what the other does wrong. We major in finding gossip and become expert in unveiling weaknesses. We split into little huddles and then, God forbid, we split again.

Another name. Another doctrine. Another “error”. Another poker game. Our Lord must be amazed.

“Those selfish soldiers,” we smirk with our thumbs in lapels. “They were so close to the cross and yet so far from Christ.” And yet, are we so different?  Our divisions are so numerous that we can’t be cataloged. There are so many offshoots that even the offshoots have offshoots! Now----really

Are our differences that divisive? Are our opinions that obtrusive? Are our walls that wide? Is it that impossible to find common cause?

“May they all be one,” Jesus prayed. One. Not one in groups of two thousand. But one in One. One church. One faith. One Lord. Not Baptist, not Methodist, not Adventist. Just Christians. No denominations. No hierarchies. No traditions. Just Christ.

Too idealistic? Impossible to achieve? I don’t think so. Harder things have been done, you know. For example, once upon a tree, a creator gave his life for his creation. Maybe all we need are a few hearts that are willing to follow suit.

What about you? Can you build a bridge? Toss a rope? Span a chasm? Pray for oneness? Can you be the soldier who snaps to his sense, jumps to his feet, and reminds the rest of us, “Hey, that’s God on that Cross!”

The similarity between the soldier’s game and our game is scary. What did Jesus think? What does he think today? There is still dice-throwing going on.

And it is at the foot of the cross.

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.” (A quote from John Stott)

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