Today: 01 October 2014
 
 

  

The cross  


He was executed as a criminal - but it was
OUR crimes he paid for
"How much do you love us?” asked the world.

“This much,” answered Jesus Christ, and spread his arms as wide as they would go.

And then he died.

Those arms were spread wide because they were nailed to a cross; Jesus was hung there by those who couldn’t stand the thought of who and what he was. They included his own people (the Jews, many of whom saw him as blasphemous, and a threat to traditional religion) as well as the occupying Romans (who saw him as a political threat and a source of social unrest.)

It would seem that Jesus was defeated by mere people, which doesn’t say much for his being God, does it? After all, if he really was God, why didn’t he escape the cross, or get himself down from it, and carry on with a life of good teaching until he died naturally at a ripe old age?

There are two main problems with that idea. Firstly, there have been many ‘good teachers’ on this earth, but Jesus isn’t quite so easily pigeonholed or simplified. He was and is God—not a mere man, not a mere teacher. What he did for us on the cross achieved more than any teaching ever could, reaching beyond that one generation to the last generation, and on into forever.

Secondly, it wasn’t that a bunch of humans hatched a clever plot and beat God at his own game. God always knew, and said so through the Old Testament prophets for thousands of years before Jesus was even born, that his son was going to be put to death on the cross. God allowed it to happen, and Jesus co-operated fully in this audacious plan to redeem mankind.

Salvador Dalí’s 1951 painting Christ of St John of the Cross explains perfectly why Jesus died (bear in mind that, to be forgiven under Old Testament law, the Jews had to make animal sacrifices—other creatures symbolically died in their place, so that they could stand clean before God.) In Dali’s painting, no nails attach Jesus to the cross. He hangs there apparently unsupported. The message is that it was all of our sins—from the beginning to the end of time—that pinned him there.

Jesus’ death was an agony beyond anything any human will ever comprehend. Being perfect himself, the weight of all of that sin was appalling to him. But he took it, in order to be a sacrifice for us—so we could stand clean and sinless before the Father. Absolutely nothing you could ever do, no matter how bad, can put you beyond the reach of that forgiveness, if you seek it.

That’s why the cross is central to the Christian faith, and why it represents victory, not defeat. It’s our ‘free’ pass to eternal life: Jesus has already paid our way. Whether we want to take hold of that pass is now up to us.

If you haven't done so already, read out other article about the cross.


Explore this subject in more depth

Pray: Jesus, please help me to get my head round what you did on the cross, and what it means for me. It’s a very difficult concept to understand, yet I also know that accepting it is the very simple way of being accepted into your eternal kingdom. Please be with me as I work through this process, however long it takes. Amen.

See the painting by Salvador Dalí Christ of St John of the Cross. Note how he does not appear to be nailed to the cross; it is our sins which hold him there.

Watch an animation clip of Jesus on the cross

Watch the music video of Delirious' Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble

Read an archaeological note about crucifixion

See the stations of the cross in pictures

Read a poem (click on ‘12 Poems’, and then choose The Morning that Death was Killed)

Listen to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (worth waiting through the intro)

Ask How can God die?

Look up Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus, dated around 700BC

Look up the full story of Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection in Matthew (NT) chapters 26-28

Watch the movie The Passion of the Christ

Read the book He Chose the Nails – What God did to Win Your Heart by Max Lucado

Read the book Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison


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