The cross of Jesus Christ -- what was it that transpired nearly two thousand years ago when a poor, obscure man, was executed by having his hands and feet nailed to two timbers and left to die as a common criminal? Why should we, centuries later, be concerned about this event? Have there not been others across the centuries who have been accused falsely and executed unjustly? Do we remember Jesus only because He died such a cruel and shameful death? Others have faced more brutal and dishonorable deaths. What makes Jesus so unique, and why is His death on the cross such a monumental event in human history?
To understand the cross, we need to understand who we are, and who Jesus is. In order to understand ourselves, we must understand where we have come from. In the opening chapters of the Bible we read of our first parents, Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God's explicit command, fell from their state of innocence, forfeited their privilege to directly communicate with God and brought God's judgment upon all their descendants.1 As a result, all men are born into this world as fallen creatures. We have inherited a sinful nature that is inclined toward rebellion against God, and consequently, are under His wrath.2 Although we often hear that man is basically good, the Bible declares that he is actually in active rebellion to his Creator. The Scripture states emphatically that all men are sinners, enemies of God, alienated from God, hostile toward God, and enslaved to their lusts.3
Just a moment's reflection on your own life should convince you that the Bible speaks the truth. Have you always loved God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? If not, you have lived as an idolater. Have you always spoken the truth in every situation? If not, you are guilty of lying. Have you always kept yourself sexually pure? If not, you are guilty of fornication or adultery. Remember that Jesus said that if a man even looks on a woman to lust for her, he has committed adultery with her already in his heart.4 Have you always loved your fellow man as much as you love yourself? Jesus said that if a man is angry with his brother or calls him a fool, he is guilty of murder in his heart.5 We have only looked at four sins -- idolatry, lying, sexual immorality, and murder. However, the Bible states clearly that those who commit such things must take their part in the lake of fire.6 From all that has been said thus far, it would seem that there is no hope for us, and all that remains must be God's punishment for our sin.
However, much to our joy and surprise, the Bible states otherwise. On the very occasion that Adam and Eve sinned against God in Paradise, God promised that He would send a Deliverer through the offspring of the woman - One who would crush the power of evil.7 From that point forward, God gradually unfolded His plan for the salvation of man and continually pointed to the coming Deliverer, a Messiah, who would save His people from their sins. At long last this Messiah, Jesus Christ, came into the world as the human son of Joseph and Mary. But make no mistake about it - He was no ordinary human baby. In fact, He existed as God before He appeared on the stage of human history.8 He was and is God of very God. The Bible very clearly states, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."9 Jesus Himself taught that He was One with the Father and the eternally self-existing One.10 Jesus was unique not only in His Person, but also in His life. He never sinned. He never told a lie, lusted after another woman, thought an evil thought, stole or coveted someone's property or loved anyone or anything more than God. He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.11 He perfectly kept all of God's law. Therefore, Jesus is unique. He is both a sinless man and our holy God - as much man as if He were not God, and as much God as if He were not man.
What is it that Jesus Christ came into the world to do? While He did teach about the kingdom of God, cast demons out of afflicted people, and heal those who were sick, He primarily came into the world to offer His life as a sacrifice for sinners. Herein is the meaning of the cross. The Bible says, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."12 "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."13 "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God."14 He died not for His own sin, for He had none, but for sinners like you and me.
What was the price that Jesus paid? The ransom price was the undiluted and unmixed wrath of God against sin. Jesus did not suffer merely a physical death on the cross. Rather, He bore God's burning anger against sin. In the midst of His pain and anguish on the cross, Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"15 In that moment the eternal Son of God, who had known nothing but unbroken intimacy with His Father from all eternity, was now forsaken, left to endure the piercing, fierce justice of God as He bore the sin of His people.
When His suffering had finally come to an end, He cried out from the cross, "It is finished" and gave up His spirit. In His death He had completed the work His Father had sent Him into the world to accomplish. He had paid the debt sinners owed to God for their rebellion, that they might be forgiven and received as God's own children. Jesus was uniquely qualified to pay this debt and bear God's wrath because of who He was and is -- the infinite God-Man. Three days later God the Father proved that He accepted Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross by raising Him from the dead.
Be sure of this -- all sin must be punished either in hell or at the cross of Christ. Were your sins paid for in the death of Jesus Christ, or will you pay for them yourself in hell? The first step to finding peace with God is to humble yourself before Him. You must recognize that your sin is so great in the sight of God Almighty, that eternity in hell is exactly what you deserve. Will you escape the wrath of God? There is but one way of escape. You must repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. Christ Himself invites you to come to Him for salvation. He says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."16
It is just at this point that many people make a soul-damning mistake. They say that they have come to Christ and are trusting in Him to save them, but their lives show no evidence that they have done so. Their heart is still set on the sinful things of the world. They continue to live for themselves. They do not follow Jesus Christ as the first priority in their lives. But the one who truly believes in Christ finds that God has changed his heart. He loves what he once hated, and hates what he once loved. Unless God has given you a new heart that loves Him and desires to do His will, you are still lost in your sins, in spite of what you profess to believe. "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."17 If you would like a free Bible or more information on becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, you may contact us below.
- Genesis 2:17; 3:24; Romans 5:12-21
- Ephesians 2:1-3
- Romans 3:23; 5:10; Colossians 1:21; Romans 8:7; Titus 3:3
- Matthew 5:27-28
- Matthew 5:21-22
- Revelation 21:8
- Genesis 3:15
- Philippians 2:6
- John 1:1-2; 14
- John 10:30; 8:58
- Hebrews 4:15
- Matthew 20:28
- 2 Corinthians 5:21
- 1 Peter 3:18
- Matthew 27:46
- Matthew 11:28
- Isaiah 55:6-7