The offence of the cross

A couple of years ago, an elderly friend told me he was horrified by the cruelty of God the Father sending God the Son to the cross to die for us.

Startled, I said I saw the crucifixion of Jesus very differently.

In my view, Christ gave his life so that those who trust him will live with him forever. Without his death for our sins, we have no hope.  Christ’s sacrifice in our place is the only way we can be with a good, perfect and loving God in eternity.

My friend was not convinced.  He hopes he will be judged good enough to enter heaven on his own merits.

I continue to pray that Jesus will reveal himself to him.

This exchange highlights for me the truth in the apostle Paul’s words where he says that sharing the message of Christ is the aroma of life to some and the stench of death to others (2 Corinthians 2:16).

In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul says he resolved to speak only about Christ and Christ crucified when he was among the Corinthians.  The cross was at the centre of Paul’s preaching.

I have been thinking recently that I need to understand more about the significance of the cross.  More than that: I need to approach the cross with the wonder and awe of the first followers of Jesus after the resurrection.

Every believer understands why Jesus died for us.  But sometimes we let the idea of the cross fade into the background in our thinking – not appreciating how wrenching and world-shaking Christ’s death on the cross was.

Think for a minute about Jesus’ young disciple John standing beneath Christ, looking up at his friend and mentor writhing and dying in great pain on that wooden cross.  Beside him stands Mary, Jesus’ mother, watching as her beloved son is about to expire.

What are the thoughts going through their minds?

Despite what Jesus has told them, they still do not understand what is happening.  They must be wondering why this good man who healed many and preached loving God and man should be nailed to a Roman cross like a thief or murderer.

If he was the Jewish messiah, why was he being killed?

For Mary, the pain must be unbearable – her first-born son dying so cruelly and hatefully.

Today, the crucifixion seems just as bewildering to people who hear about it for the first time.  They can’t comprehend why Jesus’ death and resurrection are so important.

I think that’s partly because they don’t understand that the real struggle is unseen – the battle between God and satan (Ephesians 16).  Jesus’ death and resurrection sealed God’s victory and opened the way for billions of believers to enter the kingdom of God.

Was Jesus forced to go to the cross?

No, as he said in John 3:16, he did it for love – love of us.


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