From The Second Half of the Cross
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
When Moses met God at the burning bush, from that time forward Moses was no longer in complete control of his life. In the scriptures Moses is called the “law-giver” (Jn 1:17), because through Moses the Israelites received the Ten Commandments and the other ordinances that make up the Law.
Yet when Moses is delivering the Ten Commandments to Israel in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, at the same time that Moses is delivering his speech he is also standing there as an example of the second half of the cross. After his calling at the burning bush, the self-will and self-direction of Moses are nailed to the cross of Christ as much as anyone in the Bible.
Paul says in the New Testament that the cross of Christ was a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). The Pharisees and scribes expected the Messiah to be a savior who would deliver the nation of Israel from the political control of Rome (Jer. 23:5-6; Isa. 9:6-7). The Pharisees and scribes could not conceive of a Messiah who could deliver them from something far more enslaving than the political and military power of an occupying foreign nation—namely their own self-in-control natures as kings atop the thrones of their lives.
Throughout the gospel of John the Jewish leaders and Jesus are in verbal conflict over what constitutes true worship of God and right living. The Jewish leaders claimed to be the children of Abraham and disciples of Moses, yet Jesus said that they did not have the knowledge of God in them (Jn 8:19). The Pharisees, scribes, and Jewish leaders stumbled so badly over the life of Jesus that they became the major players in bringing about the death of Jesus by crucifixion.
Not only did they fail to accept the first half of the cross—repentance and faith in Christ leading to salvation, but they utterly failed to comprehend and accept the second half of the cross—the death of self-will in surrender to God’s plans for their lives, after the pattern of the people of faith in the Bible. Had they been faithfully living according to the second half of the cross, they would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah and followed Him. The second half of the cross was staring them and us in the face, when we look at the life of Moses the lawgiver.
What if Jesus did militarily defeat the Romans, and like King David restore political freedom to the nation of Israel according to popular expectations? The same religious leaders who rejected the baptism of John the Baptist, crucified Jesus, and persecuted the early Christian church, would still have remained in self-control on the thrones of their lives. Without personal repentance and conversion, the nation of Israel would not have been spiritually free at all. Reformed Israel actually became the new Christian church, of Jewish and Gentile believers, in the first century.
In considering the life of Moses…Moses was a righteous man for the same reasons that Abraham’s faith alone was accounted to him for righteousness. By the time that the Law and the ordinances came to Moses and the Israelites, Moses had already gone to Egypt, performed miracles, delivered the Israelites, and parted the Red Sea, all through faith and trust in God. Moses was walking in God’s life-script for him long before the Ten Commandments came along.
This was the fundamental mistake made by the Pharisees, scribes, and Jewish rulers of Jesus’ day. They concentrated on following the Law, the ordinances, the temple services, the festivals, and other religious practices, according to their own self-efforts, and missed altogether the second half of the cross leading to a personal adventure of faith with God (Rom. 9:32). Following the Law, and experiencing a living walk of faith, were both equally portrayed in the Hebrew Bible. Old Testament faithful believers were supposed to follow the “law of Moses” and have a personal relationship with God.
God knew at the beginning of human history that the life of Jesus and the lives of the Pharisees were on a deadly, head-on collision course. The cross of Christ is not only for the clearly positive aspects of repentance, cleansing, regeneration, and salvation, but also to prepare a person for a personal journey of faith with God, made possible through the discipleship cost of the death of our stubborn self-in-control natures. The cross demonstrates the deadly serious nature of this conflict at its core.
The Pharisees, scribes, lawyers, and Jewish leaders hated Jesus because He exposed the fact that they had the false outward appearance of being godly, without having paid the true inner discipleship costs to back it up. They had a scholarly head-knowledge of the Old Testament, but no personal first-hand experiential knowledge of the God of the Old Testament. The surrender of the self-will to God to make room for individual life plans tailored by God was entirely missed or rejected by them as they studied the Old Testament.
The Pharisees and scribes did not “enter in” (Lk. 11:52) to a personal life with God according to the model as set forth in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others, because they never gave up control of their lives. They created their own self-willed religion based upon scholarly study and religious observances, leaving out the part about faith or trust in God that would lead to the imaginative and purposeful lives that God could and would craft for them.
The gulf between what the Pharisees and scribes said, and what they actually did, could not be much wider. They said they were the children of Abraham and the followers of Moses, yet they rejected and killed the Son of God. In Matthew 23:13, Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither permit them that are entering to go in.”
We may ask the obvious question: “go in where?” Certainly the Pharisees and scribes had all of the outward appearances of following the Jewish religious practices, and played and dressed the part of being holy men of God. They cannot be faulted on that score. They had everyone and themselves so fooled that Jesus said of them that they were as white-washed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones, or graves that men walked over without realizing it. Jesus said they were like the blind leading the blind.
The powerful lesson for us here is that discovering and following God’s life-script for us completely like Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, or not following God at all like the outwardly religious but self-powered Pharisees and scribes, can actually separate in the extreme into totaling different outcomes. Abraham, Joseph, and Moses accurately hear the voice of God, and follow the leading of God for their lives, serving as the correct models of God-composed life-scripts of faith for millions of believers to our present day.
The Pharisees and scribes are exposed as usurpers of their undeserved high religious positions in Israel, and end up on the wrong side of the trial and crucifixion of the very Messiah that was prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures they mistakenly claimed to be the careful students, interpreters, and teachers of, to the nation of Israel.
It is the second half of the cross of Christ which divides and separates the two conflicting approaches to life. The plans of God for Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, dislodge them from all previous self-made plans and goals. The designs of God propel them onward to achieve their unique positions in history. By contrast, the rejection of God’s will and participation in their lives, propels the Pharisees and scribes to commit the largest blunder in all of eternity, exposing themselves as imposters and pretenders as the supposed religious leaders of Israel during the time of the public ministry, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus.