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The Cross Work of Christ
Pastor Jack Hoffman ©2004

Toward the end of 2003, renowned Christian researcher George Barna conducted a most revealing survey. Barna’s poll used a random sampling of over 2,000 adults of various ages, ethnic diversity, etc. He asked about their worldview. ["Worldview" is a term used to describe the belief system by which a person understands or makes decisions about the world. For the Barna poll, the requirements for holding to a biblical worldview were minimal. Those holding to such a view had to embrace the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone and the personal responsibility to evangelize.] In short his conclusion was that only about 6 percent of America’s population were convinced of those 6 core beliefs. 94% of the nation of America either doesn’t know about or understand the above core beliefs, or has rejected them as inaccurate or archaic.

During the first and second century A.D. the new church was beginning to radically impact the world. It was also during this time that many lies, slanders, fabrications, fables and down right scary stories were being spread among the populace about those who were of “the way.” Some even went as far as to tell others that those Christians that were meeting at various houses (or home churches) were doing sacrifices and were cannibalistic (drinking blood), and some practiced incest. Of course that was all wrong, but those in the general population didn’t know. So early on, church pastors of local congregations in cities such as Athens, Rome, Ephesus, Corinth and scores more, were pressed into service of explaining to the folks who those “Christians” were. The church fathers were eloquent, factual and successful. They helped cleared up the misunderstandings (or down right conspiracy to defame) by preaching and publishing apologetics that explained who they were and what they were about. Here we are twenty centuries removed facing the necessity of doing exactly the same thing once again. This apologetic is written for that 94% that do not understand why the events that took place on a cross outside of Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and commemorated annually on Good Friday, are such an integral part of Christianity.

It is true that we live in a pluralistic society. Every major religion of this vast planet has it adherents in America. In America we do not persecute them nor do we endorse them governmentally. Freedom of religion means just that here in our nation. Yet, while all that is true, it is also important to recognize that the message of Christianity is vastly different that that of all the other major religions. It is in grasping the difference that converts individuals from indifference and even scoffing into what the Bible terms “new creations” in Christ.

There are several issues or core beliefs that need to be repeated every so often or they will be forgotten by the next generation. One of those is concerning who Jesus Christ is and why His death by crucifixion was not only such a heinous crime, but also a wonderful sacrificial gift of love. It is in this paradox that many become confused about true Christianity, and in their confusion mistake the appreciation of believers for the cross work of Christ for some kind of barbaric intrinsic affection for violence and gore. Those who really understand the cross are often accused of embracing a “bloody” religion because they sing about the cross or the blood in songs and make reference to the sacrifice in sermon, writings and prayers. Believers in Jesus are moved and motivated by the selfless giving of Christ for the sins of the world to such a degree that those who do not understand regard them as “peculiar” or “strange.” But here is why Christians do not shy away from accepting the truth that our faith was established by what this world would have titled a “loser” since He was put to death in shame and indignity as a common criminal.

According to the Bible, which real Christians regard as the revealed Word of God, mankind was made in the beginning by direct creation of the all powerful, all knowing and benevolent Sovereign of all the universes. The Lord God watched with broken heart as His highest creation, which He had empowered with intellect, emotion, and choice; decided to consciously rebel against his Creator. It was in this rebellion that mankind fell from innocence into sinfulness. Losing innocence in the beginning in the garden of Eden mankind was now plunged into the hopeless state of despair, degradation and as a result faced was God had promised would be the inevitable outcome of disobedience, death. So began the course of history of mankind, a sorry novel of every kind of wickedness imaginable (which wouldn’t have been so if we had not rebelled in the first place). Because man was not the highest being of the universe, because collectively we became prisoners of a fallen nature that was incapable of reaching any higher heavenward than the tips of our out stretched fingers, the human race needed someone to save them. The Almighty knew this from the beginning, and from the beginning it was His plan to redeem or buy back mankind from our sinfulness. In order to do this, God ordained that since a man chose to plunge our race into sin, it must be a man that would lift us up out of sin’s bondage. If one man’s disobedience caused all mankind to be cursed, than by one man’s perfect obedience all mankind could be blessed.

The problem of course was that everyone born naturally into the human race was tainted by a sinful nature that passed on its great propensity toward sinning and making wrong choices. To solve this dilemma, God arranged for His only Son, who shared heaven with Him, to be born on this earth, borrowing the womb of a godly young woman, and not using the natural physical necessities of a man. This unique virgin birth was the vehicle that delivered a sinless and innocent man once again into this world. God’s son Jesus then faced a lifetime of making choices about right and wrong, who He would follow and how He would prepare Himself for the ultimate choice of delivering Himself up as a sinless offering to appease God’s displeasure of all of the rest of mankind’s disobedience. Because of sin the payment for disobedience and rebellion was now in the world, death. If Jesus were to resolve the sin problem, He would have to take the payment of sin upon His righteous being. Since He had not sinned therefore He had no penalty to face, He didn’t have to die. Yet, if He was to save mankind, He had to willingly embrace death, and that sacrificially with shedding of blood (by God’s design from the very beginning), in order to pay for all that sin that mankind had committed before a Holy God. It was to be a prisoner exchange of sorts. An innocent man giving up His right to life and the approval of His God in return for all of mankind being set free from the prison of despair that rebellion had incarcerated us in.

That is exactly what Jesus did by the cross work. He allowed His innocent soul to be tormented by the indecency of us all. We looked at His purity and goodness and being convicted of our degradation we decided away with Him. So Jew and Gentile alike conspired to remove from this planet the only man that ever choose right rightly time and time again. Using the most barbaric of cruel execution methods, we laughed at his shame. We scorned His offer of love and we gambled and cursed as we watched Him suffer the most excruciating pain. His indignity became a spectacle. Yet in it all, He never cursed us back, nor did He ever reject any of us who turned to Him in repentance and faith, as did the thief hanging next to Him. We marveled that He died so soon, so strangely and so willingly. We made sure that the troublemaker, the One who convicted us of our own depravity was truly dead. We dropped Him from that blood soaked timber, and buried Him in the nearest tomb that a sympathetic individual allowed to be used, and wiping our hands of the whole issue thought that that was that.

But it was not. The cross work of Jesus Christ, the offer of a just man in the place of all of us who were unjust, was to be vindicated. God showed His approval of His Son’s sacrifice by restoring His Son to life forevermore. In the death on the cross is mankind’s remedy for sin that we could not provide for ourselves. In the resurrection of Christ is a living Savior extending His nail-scarred hands to take ours and forgive us for taking His life. Because He is life itself, He not only transfers our guilty upon His righteous soul on the cross, He bestows eternal life into our being when we by faith accept all that He did for us in our place.

So when Christians sing “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” know full well that we know full well that there was no other remedy to our sin problem but the shedding of His innocent blood. It hurts us to think He had to die in our place, and that so violently; but it thrills us that He was willing to willingly die because He loves each and every one of us so deeply.

Every person makes a choice about Christ. We can join the ones who cried “Away with Him, let Him be crucified.” Or we can bow on knee like Thomas and declare, “My Lord and My God.” Now that you understand, what are you going to do with Jesus who is called the Christ?