Jesus said, “When I am exalted from the earth, I will pull all people to Myself.”
Jesus does His cross. He delivers His cross. That’s what Holy Cross and Jesus in our Gospel lesson are all about. Today’s not about Emperor Constantine’s mom, Helena, supposedly finding Jesus’ actual cross in 326. It’s not about the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. (That’s the church built around the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb.) In fact, there used to be so much superstition that Luther said to get rid of Holy Cross, even though he never actually did.
Be glad he didn’t because otherwise we’d miss out on another chance to rejoice in what Jesus does for us. In our Gospel, Jesus draws us, pulls us, drags us to the point of His life, the point of His work, the point of His death, the point of all His preaching and teaching and Sacrament-giving. The point of it all is that He pulls us to His cross, pulls us to Himself. That’s what He does both in the doing of His cross and in the delivering of His cross. That’s how Jesus pulls us: He does His cross and He delivers His cross. That’s Holy Cross.
((2. Jesus pulls us to His cross at the doing thereof.))
Jesus does His cross. He goes to His cross. He’s crucified. It’s why He was born. It’s why He came to “this hour.” Jesus talks quite a bit about “His hour” in John. When He does, He’s talking about His being crucified. His cross, His suffering, His death is His glory, His coronation, when He most clearly shows Himself to be God. His glory is dying for you and for all. “Now is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified,” to be crucified, to be lifted up from the earth.
In doing His cross, He pulls you to Himself. He pulls all people to Himself. He doesn’t coax you or call you. Whenever Jesus pulls to Himself, it’s like a man “taking” his date by the hand to run out of the rain (Song 1:4) or an ox “pulling” a yoke (Dt 21:3) or a fisherman “hauling” in his catch (Jn 21:6) or even a bailiff “dragging” a prisoner in and out of court (Acts 16:19, 21:30). He pulls you because we can’t be coaxed into loving the crucified Christ. Loving Him is a fruit of faith because a crucified Savior is foolishness to human thinking, as Paul points out in our Epistle.
So Jesus pulls you—you and your sins to Himself. He claims your sin (2 Cor 5), your curse (Gal 3), your punishment (Is 53), your death (Rom 6) as His own. At Calvary Jesus purchased you from your sins, your punishment was taken away. Your curse was given to Jesus. His blessing is yours. Your unrighteousness is swapped out for His holiness and righteousness and purity.
Jesus does His cross. He pulls you to Himself there: your sins, your curse, your death. There He saves you. And you are saved, you are pulled to Christ, made part of Him who did His cross for you.
We still don’t want a crucified Jesus. We don’t want him to be the crucified one. The one with pierced hands a feet. On a cross. We want to move past that. No scars. We want a glorified Jesus. But His scars are His glory! The angels call Him, “Jesus who was crucified.” (Mt 28:5) He shows His disciples His scars! (Jn 20) He is the Lamb, sitting on God’s throne, who looks like He was slain. (Rev 5:6)
We certainly don’t want to invite people to this sort of Jesus. We don’t really don’t bring people to meet Jesus, anyway. The crucified Jesus is a bit embarrassing or at least uncomfortable. But this crucified Jesus is exactly the sort of Jesus that Jesus wants everyone to see, wants everyone to believe in. That’s the Jesus that Jesus preached to the Greeks that Philip and Andrew brought to He. “We want to see Jesus.” They see Jesus, and Jesus says, “Now is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified,” crucified.
((1. Jesus pulls us to His cross at the delivering thereof.))
Jesus delivers His cross. That’s what He’s doing here in our text. Before and after He’s crucified, Jesus, His angels, His apostles, His Word points, pulls, drags everyone to Himself, to His cross. Because in the delivering of His cross, in preaching it, washing people into it at the Font, in delivering His body and blood that was given and shed for you there—in all those ways Jesus is once again drawing all people to Himself, to His cross.
Jesus unites us to Himself in His cross-delivering Sacraments. In them He delivers us, saves us because in His Word and Gifts He’s literally delivering salvation, His cross right to us. We don’t have to work our way back to it, remember it properly, or feel some attachment to it. He cuts through all that. He just delivers it, pulls us to it. Now, we could stand Him up, stampede off, jump out of the net, or become a fugitive. But what good does that actually do us?
Jesus pulls us to His cross, pulls us to Himself when He delivers His cross to us. And we are united together in that cross. You and I are added together. Made one. We are the body of Christ because we’re united in and through His body that was given for you and His blood shed for you on the cross.
We aren’t here because we’ve always been here, we aren’t united because we’re related or married. We drink the same cup of His blood. We eat His body. We are baptized into the same death—His! We are one because He pulled us together as one in Himself in the delivering of His cross.
Jesus does His cross. He delivers His cross. He pulls us to it, pulls us to Himself. That’s what Holy Cross day is really all about. Not a dead emperor’s mom or some church building in Jerusalem. No, JESUS PULLS ALL OF US TO HIS CROSS. That’s Holy Cross Day.
The point of His life, the point of His work, the point of His death, the point of all His preaching and teaching and Sacrament-giving is that He pulls us to His cross, pulls us to Himself. JESUS PULLS ALL OF US TO HIS CROSS both in the doing of His cross and in the delivering of His cross. Unless you reject His pulling for your own doing.
He does it. He pulls you: dying for you, and delivering it to you. He’s pulling you to Himself again today—PULLS ALL OF US TO HIS CROSS. “One bread, one cup, one body”—Jesus’ body and blood. We’re all pulled together as one in Him. That’s what Jesus does. That’s Holy Cross day, and isn’t that every Sunday?