looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12.2 ESV)
and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. (John 19.17-18 ESV)
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6.14 ESV)
The cross of Jesus has become a very important issue within the Christian family. In Ghana, one of the things we have observed is that many people adore the cross, even to the extent of putting it around their necks. In those days, one of the things you could identify a chapel with was the cross. So, in most of the traditional churches they have a cross to identify it. Thus, the issue of the cross is important to the faith. The apostle Paul mentions that he does not boast in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes I pause to reflect on some questions as follows:
1. Why should the cross be an important symbol so far as our Christian lives are concerned?
2. Why has it become an emblem of Christianity for so many?
3. Why should Jesus endure the cross and despise the shame?
4. Why should the apostle boast in nothing but the cross?
Let’s look at a scripture from the Old Testament.
“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21.22-23 ESV)
What it means is that, for one to be hung on a cross was the highest degree of disgrace and reproach. Dying on a cross was to be exposed to public humiliation and ridicule. It was so shameful and disgraceful to die that way. Coming forward a bit, we see that in the time of the Roman Empire, those who were sentenced to death by hanging were lashed, made to carry their own crosses and led to the grounds where they were to be crucified. But in the case of Jesus, Pontius Pilate meant to free him. He looked at the charges brought against him and saw that he didn’t deserve to die but the Jews, led by the chief priests, insisted on crucifying him. They considered him a rebellious person trying to replace their religion but they didn’t know the death of Jesus on the cross was planned by God from the beginning of creation. So, by pushing for the death of Jesus, they were fulfilling scripture and prophecy. The rulers of this age did not understand this that the lamb had to be killed. If they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The big question is this: What is the significance of the death of Jesus on the cross? Why was it important for Jesus to die on the cross? What does the death of Jesus mean to me as a believer?
1. The death of Jesus on the cross is a symbol of God’s love for humanity
It shows us the meaning of God’s love. It portrays to us the extent to which God loved us. The Bible says,
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4.10 ESV)
Jesus never deserved to die. He never deserved the punishment he got. The Bible says, no falsehood or lies were found in his mouth. He was so righteous and there was no sin in him so he did not deserve to die. The only simple reason we can give for his death is that his love for us compelled him to die on the cross. He could have rejected this death but because he loved us, though he knew the suffering and pain he was going to go through, he went ahead. Remember he said he could have called legions of angels to fight for him. (Matthew 26.53) What must have compelled him to die this shameful and disgraceful death is his love for us.
So, if you ask Jesus to what extent he loves you, I believe he would show you his palm and the marks of the nails. He loved us when we did not deserve it.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5.7-8 ESV)
At the cross of Jesus, the love and justice of God met. There was a clash between love and justice. God is a righteous judge and his righteous judgment demanded a death penalty. Since we had sinned, the only just outcome was our death but his love intervened. So, when he gave the verdict and declared we had to die, he decided to take the punishment upon himself and, instead of us dying, he himself came to die in our place.
Inaudible stretch due to interrupted power supply.
We were carriers of the wrath of God but today, by the work of Jesus, we no longer carry the wrath of God. Now, when God sees me he sees me as his beloved child. The reconciliation was not just of human beings but of all things.
We were described as Gentiles but by the cross the curtain that divided the temple has been broken into two and everything has been laid bare because Jesus has reconciled us to God. So don’t be afraid. Don’t think you need somebody to take you to God for all of us have been reconciled to God.
The good news is that the cross did not pay for part of the debt; neither did it pay for almost all of the debt; the good news is that on the cross, the full debt was paid for. So there is no price tag on my neck. The price tag on my neck was death but the good news is that Jesus came and looked at me and took the price tag from my neck and hung it on his neck and died. So on the cross my debt was paid. So don’t be deceived and don’t be intimidated. The devil is trying to intimidate people and trying to make them feel they owe something but the debt has been written off.
By the cross we have victory over Satan. We have absolute victory over him. The Bible says in Colossians 2.15,
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (ESV)
So, by the cross, the devil has been defeated. Let me tell you a secret: The thing the devil fears most is the cross because it reminds him of his defeat. The devil has been defeated. When he pulled Jesus to Calvary he thought that would be the end of Jesus but something was hidden from him. He didn’t know by dragging Jesus to the cross he was beginning his own defeat. I love Jesus—he didn’t defeat Satan in a small corner somewhere; he did it in the open. They met on Calvary. If it were in our day BBC, CNN, and GTV would have been present to give a live broadcast of the battle between the devil and Jesus. He defeated him publicly and now the devil knows he has been defeated forever. If you are in a battle with the devil, know that he has been defeated.
Some of you like to go and see prophets here and there to tell you all kinds of things but death cannot hold us captive. We don’t fear death because our master has overcome Satan and all his agents and we are forever free. This is what the cross has done for us.
Hebrews 12.2, John 19.17-18, Galatians 6.14