Does the cross of Christ cause you to rejoice?
The prophet Isaiah depicts a maternal Jerusalem offering comfort to the people of Israel through the powerful image of a mother nursing her child: As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap. More powerful still is the following shift of this maternal comfort to God: as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. God’s action in the lives of the people is meant to be a source of joy made manifest in the people’s prosperity, their well-being and sense of security: When you see this, your heart shall rejoice… A similar theme is echoed in Psalm 66, where the psalmist exhorts the people to rejoice in the God who has rescued them time and time again, in the past and in the present: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy! is a call to rejoice because God loves God’s people.
At first glance, the maternal image of Isaiah may seem to clash with Paul’s evocation of the cross as a means to joy. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul boasts only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, noting that he bears the marks of Jesus on his own body. Yet the connection is clear: peace and mercy are ensured to all who embrace the cross, the word peace referring to that sense of security and well-being evoked in Isaiah and in Psalm 66. Paul, whose mission has caused him to be flogged and stoned and left for dead, knows that salvation, in the form of peace and mercy, well-being in Christ alone, is possible only because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
The disciples sent on mission by Jesus in Luke’s gospel are also warned that they are to expect hardship and suffering – a foretaste of the cross and a sign of things to come – yet the fruits of their labors will be the coming of the kingdom: their peace will rest, he tells the disciples, on those who accept the Word the disciples bring to them through their mission. And this is a reason to rejoice, as the seventy-two do upon their return, because their names are written in heaven, thanks to a similar peace, the well-being that comes only from service, and from the love of Christ that they have brought to all those whose lives they have touched; it is that love, in the form of the cross, that they will continue to share after his death. They will learn, as must we, to rejoice in the cross as our most direct access to salvation.
Image source: Wordle