In honor of the time when Christians honor the death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, I’m posting an article that I hope will bless you and cause you to consider the great gift God gave us in His Son’s willingness to die on the cross for our sins.
“But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” I Corinthians 1:23
As a writer, the Apostle Paul knew how to sling words together to create an explosion. When he referred to Jesus as the “crucified Christ”, he coupled words that would have angered his readers. Jews could see Roman crosses erected in Palestine and recalled the curse instituted by God upon anyone hanged on a tree “…Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse…” (Deuteronomy 21:23).
The cross in the days of Christ stood for the worst type of execution. Crucifixion was reserved by law for murderers, inciters of rebellion and the lowest kind of criminals. The cross meant tragic suffering and slow death for its victims, made worse because they were exposed to the physical elements and animals that prowled at night.
The Greeks and Romans reasoned that God’s Chosen One would never be treated as a rebellious slave on anything as utterly offensive and undignified as a cross!
In a strange twist of irony, the church now views this former symbol of humility and shame as the path to life and salvation. God designed His amazing plan of redemption so the cross was the principal prop used in the drama that established the Christian faith.
Without the cross, there could have been no suffering, atoning death of the Son of God.
This ultimate symbol of Christ’s love for an unrepentant world is still relevant to us today. Here are three ways the cross of Christ helps us live for God.
1. The cross makes the power of God available to us.
People like to glory in things they own or can accomplish. Not the Apostle Paul. He knew Christ had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, yet Paul gloried in the cross. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world is crucified to me and me to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
Paul was dead to the world and the world to him. The world had become nothing to him. Paul found in Christ’s death on the cross the power to resist temptation of worldly ambition. The power of God for transforming our lives came through the weakness of Christ at the cross.
Through Jesus Christ’s suffering on the cross we resist the temptation to hate and instead, demonstrate love. The forgiveness we gain at the cross enables us to forgive. Although the world worships power and prestige, we show the world that true power lies in the enduring love displayed on the cross of Jesus Christ.
Many of us will be called to bear crosses in our lives. These may be crosses of loneliness, illness, poverty, and abuse. In 1939 Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave up a lectureship in London to return to Germany to help fellow Christians resist the Nazis.
The decision was costly. In 1943 Bonhoeffer participated in a plot to overthrow Hitler and was arrested. Two years later, he was hanged at Flossenburg concentration camp in Bavaria, days before the area was liberated by the Allies. Bonhoeffer bore his cross willingly and with courage.
As followers of the cross, we can do the same, confident that, as the Father fortified his Son for the endurance of the cross and suffering, He will also attend us during our cross-bearing.
2. The Cross Offers the only Means for Salvation from Sin.
The power of God was revealed on the cross. But it is not the blood spilled on the cross that saves us. It is a symbol for what is most important —the suffering of Deity. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (I Peter 1:24)
Jesus Christ had to suffer and die a despicable death on the cross to save us from our sins. No other Being could have bridged the gap between sin and sanctity. It had to be the Son of God. A savior without the suffering and agony of the cross was no savior.
At the cross we are emptied of any reason for boasting of ourselves. When we recognize through the cross what God has done for us, we have inner peace. Accepting forgiveness at the cross shows what it means to be a follower.
The Apostle Peter rejoiced in the cross on earth and in heaven. Only the love of Jesus Christ on the cross had any glory for him: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” (I Peter 1:3-4)
Unfortunately, Peter wasn’t always clear about the meaning of the cross in his life. Before Jesus’ death, Peter thought he knew what it meant to be a cross-bearer. He imagined what the messiah should be. He thought he had the strength on his own to stand with Jesus and fight with him to the bitter end.
But self-made faith caused Peter to be vulnerable to a fall from his greatest failing– inconsistency. As a result, Peter ended up not being the follower of the cross he thought he would be.
Yet, when his faith changed, the cross redeemed Peter. He ended up being a true Rock of the church, respected throughout the centuries as a humble servant of Christ’s.
From Peter we learn the perils of trying to bear the cross on our own. To follow the cross we must come in repentance, aware of our weakness and our inability to deal with sin and death. Like Peter, we must always desire to be restored and forgiven.
When God hears the prayer of a follower who desires godly sovereignty, He faithfully restores such a one to righteousness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) God’s grace compels this passion of the cross and leads us to salvation through the only means possible.
3. At the cross we become related to one another through Jesus Christ.
At the cross Jesus Christ created the church when He gave Mary and John to each other. At the cross He made us His relatives too.
We can all be partners in the death and resurrection of our Lord because God declared his love for sinners and his willingness to give life to all through the cross. Though perhaps frightened and awed by the cruelty Jesus Christ experienced by dying on the cross, by faith we can discover it is the only means for our salvation.
Through Jesus’ love for us on the cross, we find the ability to love and forgive others.
Through His cross, our Lord binds us firmly to Himself and our Father. He reconciles us to Himself through the forgiveness of our sins. He grants us new life by His resurrection from the dead.
Through that act of reconciliation, Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to transcend everything that mars our relationships with others.
We are strengthened in our ties to one another because we are commanded daily to renew our relationships through love and forgiveness “Forgive us this day our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Luke 11:4).
We can look at every person as family, knowing Christ died for each individual on the cross. Jesus’ dying on the cross gives each person value and dignity.
“When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the prince of glory died
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.”
–“When I survey the wondrous cross” by Isaac Watts
Though innocent, Jesus Christ was judged and condemned to death as a criminal on the cross by the world. God permitted that judgment to stand for our sakes so He might raise Jesus from the dead and assure us He will do the same for us.
One day we will be raised from the dead to live with God eternally. Until then, the cross means a promise of family, forgiveness, and healing power for us.
What does the cross and the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead mean to you? Share in the Comment section below.
Have a joyous Resurrection Sunday!