The Cross Work of Christ
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
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?