What’s in the Cross?
Before I address the title question, I would like to ask another question which has been asked by many self-centered individuals and that is “What’s in it for me?” The cross that Jesus died on and asked us to take up daily would not interest the individual who would ask “What’s in it for me?” The cross is the most central figure leading us to Christ when we are ready to embrace it and receive salvation that comes through us believing that Jesus died on that cross.
Literally, hundreds of songs have been written about the cross on which Jesus died. Just to mention a few: In the Cross, At the Cross, Near the Cross, Beneath the Cross, In the Cross of Christ I Glory, Lift High the Cross, The Old Rugged Cross and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. I especially enjoy a verse from one of the hymns I didn’t know entitled In the Cross of Christ I Glory. The fourth verse reads Bane and blessings, pain and pleasure, by the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, joys that thro’ all time abide. I can especially relate to the hymn of the church, Room at the Cross for You (and me.)
What’s in the cross? The New Testament salvation centers on the cross. The Christian salvation was won by Christ’s atoning work. “The atonement,” says theologian Leon Morris, “is the crucial doctrine of faith. Unless we are right here, it matters little, or so it seems to me, what we are like elsewhere. What that means is, whether we can put it into words or not, our relationship to Christ and therefore to God depends on the way we view the cross.”
It is hard to envision the cross without relating to the crucifixion. Mark 15:34-35 relates, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Crucifixions were marked by screams of rage and pain, wild curses and the shouts of indescribable despair by the unfortunate victims. The demeanor of Jesus is not described by Mark other than his crying out in a loud voice those shattering words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The initial cry, mentioned in Psalm 22, is an appeal for God to intervene on behalf of the righteous sufferer. Jesus, on the cross, was living out the situation described in the eschatological Psalm of suffering. He instinctively expressed his feelings in biblical language imploring the help of God in a confident invocation and an anguished plea. You may ask, “Did this desolate cry show a disillusioned Messiah?” Subsequent events proved the opposite. The only reasonable explanation is that, at that moment, he suffered the full burden of sin he had come to bear.
What’s in the cross? Several years ago we read in our newspaper and saw on television the story of the woman who beat her boyfriend’s young son so severely that he died. She must have been harboring something terrible that would allow her to take such actions. But after all the beatings, as the child lay on his bed, hungry, hurting and dying, he looked at her and said, “Mommy, I love you.” What a perfect picture of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as he hung, suspended between heaven and earth, hungry, hurting and dying. He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” What an attitude he had, what love, what concern. The cross shows how hard it was for God to forgive. May the Lord help us to be more forgiving.
Pastor Jake StirnemannNovember 1, 2022