By David Faust
It stands at the center of biblical theology, pointing up to God and outward toward all mankind.
It stands at the center of history, dividing time into BC and AD.
It stands after centuries of religious and political division, for while customs vary and opinions come and go, the cross still points to the unchanging love of God.
The cross stands because of the magnetism of the one who died there. He said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
It stands because of the priceless blood that was shed there—”the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).
It stands because of the wisdom revealed there. The message of the cross is simple yet profound. Some insist upon seeing miraculous signs, and others demand to be persuaded by impressive philosophical arguments, but “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The cross still stands in troubled times. Economic hardship, political disarray, family strife, and religious confusion mark the days in which we live; but these troubles were present when Jesus walked the earth, too. His answer wasn’t merely to give speeches or to start an alternative political party. His strategy wasn’t to push the emperor off his throne. He came to push sin into Hell and lift sinners up to Heaven. His answer was the cross.
Jesus’ Crucifixion—and Ours
There’s no escaping the cross if we follow Jesus. The Lord personalized the cross for each of his followers when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). How can Jesus’ crucifixion help us understand our own crosses as we take them up “daily”?
He suffered purposefully. The agony of the cross described in Luke chapter 23 was a crucial part of God’s larger plan, filled with eternal significance. One chapter later the risen Christ summed up the overarching theme of the Bible by saying, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46, 47). In a lesser way, our suffering is part of the plan too. When we “participate in the sufferings of Christ,” we should not be surprised but watch for God’s purpose and glory to be revealed (1 Peter 4:12-19).
He forgave graciously. Two of Jesus’ statements from the cross poured out unexpected and undeserved kindness. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). And to the repentant thief: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Our daily cross-bearing brings us into contact with others who need to encounter God’s mercy. Our own hardships must not prevent us from extending grace to them.
He died triumphantly. Jesus died with a victorious shout, not with a bitter whisper. He “called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’” (v. 46). Because of him, we can die triumphantly too, committing our spirits into the Father’s hands.
There’s no escaping the cross. But for those who embrace it, there’s also no escaping the blessings it brings.
1. What does the cross of Christ mean to you?
2. What does it mean to pick up your own cross and carry it daily?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for September 22, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Isaiah 40, 41
Isaiah 42, 43
Isaiah 44, 45
Isaiah 49, 50