So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea… Exodus 14:27-29
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Luke 12:49-51
In this holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar, our attention has a laser fix on an entirely different symbol: the cross. Like the Red Sea, it is a symbol forever engrained in a culture for thousands of years. Like the Red Sea, it represents an end of an era and the beginning of an era. But, unlike the Red Sea, the harsh division between the those two eras carries forward even to today, literally dividing all of civilization into two groups: those who believe and those who do not. And perhaps never have both groups thrived more in their respective ideologies than they do in our world today.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, you see, is uncommonly uniting (bringing people of hugely diverse backgrounds together at the foot of the cross) and, at the same time, horrifyingly divisive. It is incredibly inclusive in its appeal and unbendingly exclusive in its application. There is nobody anywhere for whom it is unavailable or whose past or present choices make it inaccessible. But there are no terms of its acceptance which are negotiable or flexible. The cross of Jesus, you see, is simultaneously an instrument of great division, total destruction and extraordinary deliverance.
And so it is with utter reverence, high praise, and great fear and trembling that an entire believing world turns its face this week toward that cross and give thanks for its saving work in our lives. Thank you, Jesus. Have mercy on us.