The cross is an integral feature of the Gospel message and without understanding the purpose of the cross, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Christian faith would be powerless to save from sin. It seems that one of the latest celebrity trends includes wearing a cross. If the true symbolism of the cross was understood, maybe some would think twice about downgrading the cross to a fashion accessory! The cross represents everything that Jesus did for us – there is great value in fully understanding the power of the cross. In fact, the story of human history is defined by what happened on the cross!
Crucifixion became a form of execution in the 4th century B.C. under Alexander the Great, then it was used by the Romans for only the worst offenders. This was meant to be a public show – anyone being crucified was displayed in full view of passers by or those who came to witness it as an event – sometimes this lasted many days and attracted big crowds. It was the most humiliating and horrific way to die but Jesus’ crucifixion was made even worse by the beatings and scourging inflicted on him in the build up. Read this article to get an understanding of Jesus’ suffering from a medical point of view. Crucifixion was abolished in 337 A.D. by Constantine the Great in honour of Christ’s death, but there are still reports of crucifixions happening to this day, particularly in the Middle East.
Those who do not know Christ may be puzzled as to why Christians sing songs about the cross, why crosses are worn and why crosses are prominently on display in churches. It may be assumed that Christain’s are praising something that is undeniably a cruel torture device. But to a Christian there is something so special and precious about the cross, something that should be constantly remembered, as Jesus death upon the cross impacts every one of us.
The apostle Paul did not want to glory in anything but the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”:
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)
We are all corrupted with sin with no possibility of “working” our way free of its hold over us. Because of God’s perfect justice and love, sin has to be punished, but thankfully in His overwhelming love for us He sent His own Son to pay for our sins. If it was not for the cross and the shed blood of Christ we have no way of being free from our sin and no possibility of appearing righteous before God.
Jesus had to die to make atonement for us and restore our broken relationship with God the Father, He came into this world to be slain for our sin:
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:5-19, emphasis added)
The Old Testament prophecies taught in advance that this had to happen. Even the Jewish spring feasts anticipated the cross and pointed the Jewish people forward to the arrival of their Saviour, even though they failed to recognise Him. Jesus Christ provided the ultimate fulfillment of these spring feasts with His death, burial and resurrection. Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled the Passover. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world:
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
Crucifixion was the only method of execution that would fulfill the Old Testament prophecies – no other type of death would fit Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah 53:5 predicts the Messiah would be “pierced” for our iniquity. Psalm 22 describes the future event of the Messiah’s death from a “first person” point of view. Here, King David details that the hands and feet would be pierced by evil men while people stared and celebrated. Zechariah 12:10 prophesied the Messiah will be pierced and also that it was God himself that was killed. Jesus knew he had to be lifted up (John 3:14-15) referring to the typology of Moses lifting up the snake in the desert (Numbers 21). These Old Testament prophecies were written many hundreds of years before crucifixion was even invented and graphically foretold the type of death that Jesus would suffer. These precisely fulfilled prophecies provide a wealth of credibility to the writings of the Bible.
Jesus was fully aware that He had to die, He told his disciples exactly what was going to happen:
And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. (Mark 10:32-34)
But when we understand what happened upon the cross we can only be humbled. In the realisation of the horrific events He was about to suffer, Jesus prayed in anguish to the Father for the cup to pass from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane:
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39, emphasis added)
God has a real hatred of sin, nothing can exist in His presence with any kind of impurity. This “cup” that Jesus is referring to is the cup of God’s wrath. For Jesus to take the penalty for all our sins, past, present, and future, God had to unleash His full wrath against Jesus. Jesus was to experience the separation from God and yet it “pleased” God to do this:
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10, emphasis added)
The Hebrew term for “to bruise” means to crush, to break into pieces. God had pleasure in crushing Jesus with the knowledge that this would restore His relationship with us! You see, death and sin was brought into the world through ONE man (Adam) and this condition affects ALL humanity – therefore the payment/atonement of ONE man (Jesus) can therefore rescue ALL of mankind from this effect of sin. Our relationship with God was broken through the result of the actions of ONE man (Adam) – therefore, our relationship with God can also be restored completely through the actions of ONE man (Jesus):
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)
Jesus received the punishment of every one of our sins in one instant upon the cross. That is why through Jesus’ death on the cross we are saved from God’s judgment! This short video describes The Full Meaning of the Cross.
Despite enduring all this Jesus did it with joy!
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, emphasis added)
Through the work of the cross of Calvary we have peace with God and we can appear righteous in the Father’s eyes:
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: (Colossians 1:19-22)
Upon the cross and with His subsequent resurrection, Jesus defeated death once and for all, the Father gave Jesus the commandment to lay down His life and to take it again, Jesus has the power over death!
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17-18)
This is the power of the cross! Through the cross we have life! Satan thought he had won when Jesus died, in fact the opposite was true – Satan was defeated! Jesus made this clear to Satan and his minions:
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:13-15, emphasis added)
We should be in awe of Jesus’ victory over death, God had this planned from the beginning of time. We can celebrate the fact that our sins were nailed to that cross, giving Jesus the praise and honor He deserves. This was the defining moment in human history.
Now through Jesus we have access to the Father and can be fellow citizens with the saints:
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Ephesians 2:16-19, emphasis added)
So much was achieved by Jesus on the cross that can often be overlooked. The cross is the key that unlocks our hearts and reopens our connection with our Creator. There is power in what Jesus did on the cross – power that sets us all free.
For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. (2 Corinthians 13:4)
Being a Christian is not easy, it never has been! Following Christ goes against the flow in society and even our closest friends will often not understand the new life with have in Jesus. Society currently does not recognise the existence of sin – this has been redefined. The purpose of the law of God was to highlight our failure to maintain Gods standards and our need of a Saviour. Without an understanding of sin and God’s justice, it is impossible to understand our need for repentance – this is not an attractive message for us to accept in Western culture. However, by knowing and understanding what Jesus did upon the cross, we have a decisive victory over anything this world throws at us. We are commanded to take up the cross and follow him:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
Jesus should be central to our lives and we should be in daily gratitude to Him and His work upon the cross, as without the cross we have no salvation.
Jesus did what He had to do for you, will you ignore/reject this or accept it?
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Do you want to understand what the power of the cross can have on your life? Are you ready to set your sights upon the cross and acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins? Jesus is our only way to salvation! How to be saved.
Below are lyrics of two songs that focus on the cross. They can be sung in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s victory over death for us: