March 30, 2013

An Easter Devotion

Nick wrote a devotional letter to our church for Easter, and after much review, I decided that it was decent enough to be posted on such a prestigious blog as this.  Plus, I like to take partial credit for the devotional, seeing as how I edited it.  Nick might be an eloquent writer and speaker, but he's not too good at knowing where to put his commas.
{Nick teaching at our church on Good Friday}

Here you go....Enjoy!

Dear Church Family,

I seem to find myself writing these covenant devotionals around the holidays, so this week leading up to Easter I was thinking about the cross.  I noticed how the cross is a familiar symbol for us as Christians. So familiar, that it can breed apathy or disinterest, which makes it difficult to see our lives in light of the cross.  The reality is, our identity in Christ is cross-shaped.  We are a cruciform people as followers of Jesus.  So this letter, or devotional, is a humble effort to dust off one of our most familiar Christian words. 

Death by crucifixion was a common execution device used by the Roman Empire in the first century A.D.  It involved pounding stakes through the wrists and ankles of the victim and into the wood beams from which they “hung”.  Death did not come fast with this process, and some accounts record individuals living for days until they died from exposure or blood loss.  This process was specifically reserved for non-Romans, foreigners, and ethnic peoples who had been conquered by the Roman Empire and consequently were forced to live under the rule of Caesar.  As you might imagine, these conquered peoples attempted rebellion from time to time, but in the 1st century A.D., Rome proved very successful at stomping out these revolts.  So, crucifixion became an effective tool used by Rome in the outer reaches of the empire to squash revolts and uprisings that welled up among oppressed people groups.  There were certainly more efficient methods of killing someone, but the brutality and shame of crucifixion was excellent propaganda for the Roman Empire.  The hanging bodies of ethnic rebels and insurrectionists communicated quite clearly the consequences of trying to revolt against Rome.  Caesar was King, and periodic crucifixions seared this reality into the minds of everyone living under his rule.  So, the cross was a symbol of death and profound shame, continually reminding the Jewish people that things just hadn’t gotten much better since returning from exile.  Sure, they lived in the “promised land”, but they were still subservient to Rome, and they lived as a defeated people.

Fast-forward two thousand years or so.  Mindy and I are running errands the other day, and on the wall of the office building where we were hung a crafty, decorative sign with a jeweled cross and the words: “be happy, love life, live well.”  Hopefully, our brief foray into the 1st century helps us see the banal irony of a jeweled cross, pictured next to trite, feel-good truisms.  Somehow, a Roman torture device has morphed into a marketable logo for our generalized pursuit of the “good life.”  Maybe you’re doing what I did, and you’re smugly patting yourself on the back for not owning “Christian” kitsch like this.  We know what the cross is really about.  But do we?  Does the cross shape the way we see our life?  Don’t we want Jesus on our terms?  Don’t we want the Christian life to make us happy, to fix our problems, and get us to heaven?  Don’t we get angry and impatient when God doesn’t follow our plans?  If we’re honest, I think we understand and appreciate what Jesus did on the cross, but like this sign, we don’t really want the offense and suffering of the cross to mark our lives.  We are all sorting through our selfish love of Jesus, where we love him for what he does for us, rather than loving him and following him because He IS.

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul says the cross is foolishness to the world around us, but we preach Christ crucified anyway.  There is a reason Paul doesn’t preach Jesus raised from the dead before preaching Jesus crucified.  We don’t get resurrection Jesus without crucified Jesus.  This means we, as his followers, don’t get a resurrected life without a crucified life or a cross-shaped life.  In John’s gospel Jesus explains it this way: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me….”  Our lives are compared to kernels of wheat, which must be buried and die in order to live and multiply.  This is a wonderful image, because it connects our death, our turning from sin, addiction, and brokenness with growth and flourishing.  This is the only way to understand our sin.  It’s not about what we have to give up.  It’s about the abundant life we step into when we allow the Spirit to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Rom. 8). 

During Easter, we celebrate the stunning reality that God’s rule crashed into earth through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  But we can’t forget how heaven crashed in- by way of the cross, by way of foolishness, shame, humility and death.  This was the only way to atone for our sin and the world’s brokenness.  The cross reminds us that we’re forgiven and it’s the only way if we’re to live as his disciples.   So, this Easter, as we contemplate and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord, would the cross give us courage and strength to see the ways we must die.  And would the resurrection give us eyes to see and to hear God’s Spirit inviting us to new life.   

In Christ,

Nicholas Kinnier


  1. We American Christians tend to cling to whatever insures us of a life of comfort and privilege, fortifying our perspective of this life of "blessing" with all the right scriptures. Case in point: Do we care more about homosexuals salvation or the fact that giving them the right to marry just might mess up our our religious instutions "rights"? Dieing to self requires life long concentration, humility, and allowing Christ to show us new and often uncomfortable ways of reflecting God's love in this world. I appreciate your words today.

  2. Very well said and very thought provoking! We take the cross for granted too easily. We need reminders like these to keep our focus on the true meaning and sacrifice of the cross and what it should mean in our lives daily. Thanks Nick

  3. . . . we don’t really want the offense and suffering of the cross to mark our lives. . .

    Well said, Son.--Dad