There are so many wonderful relationships and works to be considered in studying the life of Christ. He was a friend of sinners, he turned water into wine and fed the multitudes, he healed the sick, made the lame to walk, the mute to speak, and the blind to see. He loved men and women with great passion and in total purity. However, the mission of Jesus was not finished by these mighty deeds nor by the great truths he preached. Ultimately, the Incarnation of the Son of God comes into focus with the Lamb of God dying on the Cross thereby saving mankind from their sins. “His death was not an afterthought or an accident, but the accomplishment of a divine purpose in connection with the incarnation. The incarnation is not an end in itself; it is but a means to an end, and that end is the redemption of the lost through the Lord’s death on the cross” (Henry Thiessen).
Easter is one of the most significant moments in the history of mankind. There is so much to consider and contemplate on regarding the person of Jesus and his death, burial and resurrection. The Apostle Paul sums this up in 1 Cor 15:1-5 - Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
Why the Cross is so important?
This morning I would like us to consider the crucifixion of Jesus and the importance of the Cross to us as followers of Jesus Christ. The Church has been given the message of the cross amid the technological age, with all its scientific and communication breakthroughs. Even with all the advancement of wisdom and knowledge in society today, sin and death continue to run rampant throughout the world. I believe we have been given true wisdom as Christians to live in the Spirit by the power of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would say that the cross is paramount in the life of Jesus Christ; it is the most redeeming and liberating and glorious work in the history of mankind because it is on the Cross that the Lamb of God died.
Jesus himself stated “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15b); in other words - dying on the cross was indeed the foremost goal of Jesus. Even John the Baptist, who was sent to bear witness to the Christ, exclaimed to his disciples upon seeing Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). To some degree, John knew prophetically that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God; the Way, the Truth and the Life. Yet the most important thing John wanted his disciples to know was that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would pay the price necessary for the forgiveness of sins and the defeat of Satan through the cross.
Later in Jesus ministry we see an interesting interaction between Jesus and his disciples, especially Peter (Matthew 16:13-28). Jesus asks who his disciples thinks he is and this brings about various responses, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). A few verses later it says “From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). In other words, Jesus was saying, “It's gonna take the cross to redeem mankind.” Peter didn’t like the comment and corrects Jesus and in turn Jesus rebukes Peter. The sharpness of this rebuke to Peter stems from Jesus’ determination to fulfill his Father’s dream – the redemption of mankind, which required a holy sacrifice. Peter did not realize the centrality of what would be accomplished by the cross - that it was of first importance.
To a large degree, this is the state of the Church today. We don't fully understand Jesus’ mission to die on a cross or how to glory in it. One of the main messages spoken in today’s contemporary approach to Christianity is that of God’s grace. However, we must remember that the fullness of that grace and all that God has accomplished and made available to us is only the result of the Cross! The Cross opened the way for people to experience grace and faith in God. The Cross brought about the forgiveness of sins, freedom from Satan’s power, and ultimately new and eternal life. Without the Cross Christianity is meaningless.
The Power of the Cross
Have you ever met a ‘seasonal’ Christian? This is someone who claims to know God but shows up for church only at Christmas or Easter or for some special occasion. This is not a great way to connect to God’s family. Sometimes I have met ‘fair weather’ Christians, those who like the grace and faith they have in Jesus but are not too committed when the storms of life arise. We must remember that the Cross is a source of spiritual and natural power for the believer. There are several verses that speak of God’s power in the New Testament.
· I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… (Rom 1:16).
· “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
Only one life in all creation is supreme and that is the life of Christ and not ourselves. “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:15). I have met Christians who live, not self-pleasing, not self-promoting, not self-pitying but only for Christ. When we focus on Christ and the power of the Cross, we find his grace and our purpose and joy in life. This is a powerful way to live.
One of the main aspects of the Power of the Cross in action is that of salvation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus dealt a death blow to our sinful natures and the power of Satan, through the power of the cross, giving us the ability to live a life of victory each day in the Spirit.
What does it mean to be a NEW CREATION?
· When Christ died, I died...
· When Christ died, my sinful nature died...
I now live as a new creation no longer a sinner prone to sin but as a saint disposed to righteousness. I am a righteous follower of God who may sin because of my free will, but not because of my sinful nature. Because my sinful nature or my old man or my flesh has been crucified with Christ.
This is the truth I need to believe. This is the power of the Cross in action in my life. Satan’s lie is to get me to think that my sinful nature is still alive. It is not but has been crucified with Christ. Therefore, we are called to live as if I have “taken up my cross” and have died to self-living and now live by the power of the Cross, by the power of the Spirit of God from glory to glory, not from sin to sin or struggle to struggle.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
What can we do to live in God’s blessings and the power of the Cross? How should we live to reap joy, happiness, and peace, now and through all eternity? If you want to see God in all his power, look at Jesus Christ dying on a cross. It's at the Cross that God in Christ conquered death, hell, and sin. Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins so we don't have to. He died on a cross and rose again to defeat the power of sin and death in the life of every person who believes. It’s at the Cross that he purchased for us abundant life and freedom.
The mature Christian understands that knowing the power of the Cross brings strength and stability to one’s life. The Cross minimizes all things of lesser importance and focused first and foremost on the Lamb of God. The one message that is most important for you and I today is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
One of the greatest aspects of Christianity to meditate on is the Cross. Hebrews 12:2…