[This article is available in Urdu here.]
Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down at the foot of the cross
– Don Moen
This is the chorus of a popular song that we sang at our church meeting last Sunday. There is a lot I love about this song except that I have a problem with the phrase about laying every burden down “at the foot of the cross”. I cannot find in the scriptures the notion that we can, or should, lay our sins, problems, or burdens at the foot of the cross.
Perhaps I’m too unimaginative. Or perhaps it has something to do with my aversion to Christian sentimentality. The reality of the gospel, however, is far greater than our imaginations and far more powerful and profound than sentimental notions.
Jesus’ death on the cross was a true, historical event. On the cross, Jesus was humiliated and degraded. On the cross, Jesus suffered an agonising and cruel death. Also, on the cross, Jesus effectively paid the ransom price for our redemption from sin and death with his innocent life blood.
But Jesus is no longer on the cross. His redemptive act was successfully completed—once and for all. The crucifixion is a past event. The cross no longer exists. Thankfully, however, the amazing blessings, which Jesus secured for us on the cross, are eternal (e.g., Col. 1:9-14).
The Exalted Lord
Jesus is no longer the suffering sacrifice. He is the triumphant Saviour and victorious Lord situated in the heavenly realms. He is resurrected, exalted, and glorified, and seated at the right hand of the Father. And he intercedes on our behalf from this amazing vantage point (John 14:12-14). Jesus brings our prayers and needs directly to God the Father who cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).
Therefore [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25
The Early Church worshipped Jesus as the exalted and glorified Lord. The surviving Christian hymns from the second and third centuries are mostly praises to the exalted and glorified Jesus. Very few are about the cross or Jesus’ suffering.
If we keep looking back at the past event of the crucifixion, our faith may be less powerful than if we are focusing onwards and upwards (Phil. 3:14). I believe that how we see Jesus, whether on the cross or in glory, will affect our prayers and the way we approach God.
How we see ourselves will also affect the way we pray and approach God. Not only has Jesus been exalted to the heavenly realms, but the scriptures tell us that we are somehow there also.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6
We need to raise our thoughts higher. We need to understand the reality that Jesus is the powerful victor over sin and death whose role, right now, is as our mighty intercessor. We need to raise our thoughts to the fact that, right now, we are already citizens of the kingdom of heaven and have some access to the heavenly realms through the Holy Spirit (e.g., Eph. 2:18).
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1
Should we place our sins, problems and burdens at the metaphorical (or imaginary) “foot of the cross”? Or should we hand them over to God the Father through the real, resurrected and exalted Jesus Christ?
I am grateful to the Lord Jesus who sees my situations, knows my thoughts and hears my cries—who is able to help me, bless me and love me in ways beyond my understanding and imagination. I can confidently give my prayers and my trust to God the Father, knowing that Jesus is the powerful, effective and loving mediator between myself and God the Father. I don’t want to rely on an imaginary or metaphorical cross when I have a real, heavenly intercessor!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3: 20-21
Disclaimer: I have several Christian friends who, when they pray, mentally place their issues at “the foot of the cross”. They see a sacrificial aspect in placing their sins and burdens at “the foot of the cross”. I am aware of at least one remarkable and quick answer to a prayer request “placed at the foot of the cross”. Thankfully, God’s grace and mercy does not depend on “correct” theology in our prayers. However, the more we truly know God and understand the amazing salvation that is ours, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the more we are able to expect, experience and appreciate all that God has graciously made available for us.