At the Foot of the Cross

By Lee Magness

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

There they stood at the foot of the cross, stood not kneeled, priests and scribes, their eyes squinting to slits in the noonday sun, squinting like the sightless pretending to see. They were blinded by years of looking through glasses tinted with law and tainted by sin. They were blinded by years of looking for the wrong Messiah for the wrong reasons, so set on a sovereign to save them from their servitude that they could not see the Sovereign in the Servant.

There they stood at the foot of the cross, stood not kneeled, Jewish rulers and Roman soldiers, their every word an irony. They named the criminal, “The King of the Jews,” accurate in spite of their spite, inaccurate in the light of his authority over Heaven and earth and them. They threw his words back at his mute mouth, “Aha, the one who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,” the feat they thought impossible happening right before their eyes. They called his bluff, saying, “He saved others, let him save himself,” not realizing that to really accomplish the one, he could not do the other. Then they said, “Let him come down from the cross, so that we might believe,” the final irony, since we believe precisely because he did not . . . come down from the cross.

Here we are gathered around this table, as close to the foot of the cross as we dare to get, care to get, need to get. Standing is hard enough, but we force ourselves to kneel. And we wag our heads in wonder, not that he died, but that he died for such as them, and for such as us, standing, now kneeling, at the foot of the cross.

God, help us to look at the cross with while-we-were-yet-sinners eyes, through Jesus, Amen.

Lee Magness is the Vera Britton Professor of Bible at Milligan College in Tennessee. This meditation is excerpted from his new book from Standard Publishing, In the Breaking of the Bread (item 23029). To order the book, or its companion, The Longest Table, CLICK HERE.

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