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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Five - The Fourth Initiation - The Crucifixion
III.

In turning our attention to the story of the Crucifixion it is obvious that there is no need to recount the details of it. [208] It is so well known and so familiar that the words in which it is couched are apt to mean little. The tale of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, of His gathering the disciples together into the upper room, and there sharing with them the communion of bread and of wine, and of the desertion of those who supposedly loved Him, with His subsequent agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, is as familiar to us as our own names, and much less arresting. That is the tragedy of Christ. He did so much, and we have recognized so little. It has taken us twenty centuries to begin to understand Him and His mission and career. The Crucifixion itself was only an anticipated and expected consummation of that career. No other end was possible. It was predetermined from the beginning, and really dated from the time when, after the Baptism initiation, He started out to serve humanity, and to teach and preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God. That was His theme, and we have forgotten it and have preached the Personality of Jesus Christ - one theme which He Himself ignored and which seemed to Him of small importance in view of the greater values involved. This again is the tragedy of Christ. He has one set of values and the world has another.

We have made of the Crucifixion a tragedy, whereas the real tragedy was our failure to recognize its true significance. The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was based upon the fact that He was not understood. Many men have died violent deaths. In this, Christ was in no wise different from thousands of other farseeing men and reformers, down the ages. Many people have passed through the Gethsemane experience and prayed with the same fervor as Christ that God's will might be done. Many men have been deserted by those who might have been expected to understand and participate in the work and service visioned. In none of these respects was Christ really unique. But His suffering was based upon His unique vision. The lack of comprehension of the people, and the distorted interpretations which future theologians would give to His message must surely have been a part of [209] the prevision, as likewise the knowledge that the emphasis accorded to Him as the Savior of the world would retard for centuries the materializing of the kingdom of God on earth, which it was His mission to found. Christ came that all mankind might have "life... more abundantly." (St. John, X, 10.) We have so interpreted His words that only the "saved" are credited with having taken the necessary steps towards that life. But the abundant life is surely not a life to be lived hereafter, in some distant heaven where those who are believers shall enjoy an exclusive life of happiness, whilst the rest of God's children are left outside. The Cross was intended to indicate the line of demarcation between the kingdom of men and the kingdom of God, between one great kingdom in nature which had reached maturity, and another kingdom in nature which could now enter upon its cycle of activity. The human kingdom had evolved to the point where it had produced the Christ and those other children of God whose lives bore constant testimony to the divine nature.

Christ assumed the ancient symbol and burden of the cross, and, taking His stand beside all the previous crucified Saviors, embodied in Himself the immediate and the cosmic, the past and the future, rearing the Cross on the hill outside Jerusalem (the name of which signifies the "vision of peace"), thus calling attention to the kingdom which He died to establish. The work had been completed, and in that strange little country called the Holy Land, a narrow strip of territory between the two hemispheres, the East and the West, the Orient and the Occident, Christ mounted the Cross and fixed the boundary between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world, between the world of men and the world of Spirit. Thus He brought to a climax the ancient Mysteries, which had prophesied the coming of that kingdom, and instituted the Mysteries of the kingdom of God.

The effort to carry out to perfection the will of God brought to an end the most complete life that had been lived on earth. The attempt to found the kingdom, [210] preordained for all time, and the antagonism it evoked, brought Christ to the place of crucifixion. The hardness of men's hearts, the weakness of their love, and their failure to see the vision, broke the heart of the Savior of the world - a Savior because He opened the door into the kingdom.

It is time that the Church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialize the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now. The time is past wherein we can emphasize a future and coming kingdom. People are no longer interested in a possible heavenly state or a probable hell. They need to learn that the kingdom is here, and must express itself on earth; it consists of those who do the will of God at any cost, as Christ did, and who can love one another as Christ loved us. The way into that kingdom is the way that Christ trod. It involves the sacrifice of the personal self for the good of the world, and the service of humanity instead of the service of one's own desires. In the course of enunciating these new truths concerning love and service Christ lost his life. Canon Streeter tells us that "the significance and value of the death of Christ springs from its inner quality. It is the expression in external act of a freely chosen self-dedication, ungrudging, and without reserve, to the highest service of God and man. The suffering incidental to such self-offering is morally creative." (The Buddha and the Christ, by B. H. Streeter, p. 215.)

Is it not, perhaps, a fact that the Crucifixion of Christ, with its great preceding events - the communion and the Gethsemane experience - is a tragedy which has its basis in the conflict between love and hate? It is not the intention of this book to belittle the world event which took place upon Calvary. But today as one looks back upon that event, a certain truth begins to emerge, and this is that we have interpreted that sacrifice and that death in purely selfish terms. We are concerned with our individual interest in the matter. We have emphasized the importance of our individual salvation and feel it to be of tremendous importance. But the world view and what Christ was destined to [211] do for humanity down the ages, and the attitude of God towards human beings from the earliest times, through the period of Christ's life in Palestine and on until the present time, are subordinated to the factor of our belief or non-belief in the efficacy of the Crucifixion upon Calvary to save our individual souls. Yet in His conversation with the repentant thief Christ admitted him into the kingdom of God on the basis of his recognition of divinity. Christ had not yet died, and the blood sacrifice of Christ had not yet been made. It was almost as if Christ had foreseen the turn which theology would give to His death, and endeavored to offset it by making the recognition of the dying thief one of the outstanding events at His death. He made no reference to the remission of sins through His blood as the reason for that admission.

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