The Significance Of The Cross

What really happened on the cross? Writers have documented the ordeal that Jesus went through just prior to and as He hung between heaven and earth on the cross. It has been documented on film, such as “The Passion of Christ” portraying the suffering Jesus went through. Scripture makes us aware of Jesus’ inquisition before the religious leaders in Jerusalem, His trial and His scourging and the physical torture and humiliation and His death by crucifixion. But I still wonder...is there something about Jesus and the cross that we have failed to grasp and understand? 

The appeasement-based view of the cross is well known to most people, and it goes something like this. Because Jesus was without sin He did not deserve to die. However He submitted Himself to His Father’s will, and as a sacrifice He accepted the guilt and punishment of our sins. God’s punitive action was to punish Jesus to satisfy the justice and punishment our sins deserved. By enduring God’s sentence, Jesus absolved the gilt of our sin and we can now stand justified before a holy God.

Though this may satisfy our inherent sense of shame for our own sins by continually repenting of them, but, is that what the cross-work of Jesus is all about. If we fail to go beyond this appeasement-based view of the cross we make God out to be the bad dude in the sky executing sentence upon the good guy on earth who was willing to take our punishment. God’s wrath killed Jesus and thus
appease His anger.

That is the predominant view of that momentous event. Scripture is reveals a much fuller perspective of the depth of what took place by the cross-work of Christ. What really happened on the cross? What was the work that the Father and Son accomplished together...I am not convinced it was a work to appease God’s anger, but a way to cleanse mankind of sin because of His love for humanity. This was more an act of LOVE for man than a act of punitive anger against sin. Their plan was not to merely punish sin, but to destroy its power and provide a way for humanity to be rescued from the brokenness of sin into a love relationship with God that He desires to have with people. God's plan for humanity is  far more than the appeasement gospel.

Realize that from the appeasement point of view there was absolutely nothing that the Roman soldiers could conjure up that would end Jesus’ life. Nothing they could do would have been sufficient to kill Jesus.

Jesus was not a victim of the lying religious leaders nor the corrupt politics of His day. Death would come when He was willing to surrender to it. He laid down His life on His own accord. See John 10:17-18. The cross alone, the acts of cruelty by the Roman soldiers were not sufficient to kill Jesus. Jesus was without sin and it is only the soul that sins that will die. Since Jesus knew no sin therefore, death could not overpower Him. Instead He submitted to death for a greater good. He yielded His spirit into God’s hands and gave Himself over to death.

At any point in the juncture He could have called a legion of angels to deliver Him. That Jesus would endure the agony of the cross with the full freedom to end it at any moment if He wanted to, ought to make His cross-work much more appreciative.

I do not pretend that to fully understand the mystery of the relationship that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for it is beyond human understanding. But the idea that has been propagated, that in some way God was able to separate Himself from the cross does not make sense to me. The understanding of the cross by religions across our land is that God the Father executed His wrath on God the Son while forsaking Him.

This kind of thinking in my humble opinion, denies the very essence of God’s nature and also distorts the facts of the cross. Scripture tells us that “God was reconciling the people of the world to Himself in Christ” ( 2 Cor. 5:19). God the Father was not a distant observer, but very much a willing participant. He did not send Jesus to do what He would not do, but God Himself acted through Jesus to bring about redemption for mankind.

Many have taken Jesus' cry that His Father had forsaken Him to mean that the Father turned His back on the Son and left Him high and dry. God cannot bare to look upon sin, is their explanation, so that when our sins were laid on Him He had to turn away from His Son.

God has shown us from the beginning that He is not does not hide from sinful humanity. Did He hide from Adam and Eve when they sinned...NO, they hid from Him and He sought them out. It is not that God cannot bare to look upon sin, He is continually looking upon the sin of humanity, it is that we in our sin cannot look upon God. He is not the one who hides, we are. God is secure enough to look upon sin and not be tainted by it. He has always done so and He did so at the cross.

God was fully involved in all aspects of redemption, after all it was His plan. The anguish that ripped through the Godhead that day cannot be fathomed by our limited brain function. They were working together, enduring the process necessary to destroy sin to liberate those they love. Jesus was not the victim and His Father the victimizer! They together were paying the price for the relationship they so deeply desired with humanity.

To make this a punitive act of God that He laid on Jesus for the guilt of our sins misses the main point. Jesus was not just guilty for our sins, He became sin (singular) itself. This is not referring to the acts of sin, but the very root of it...that self-preferring, self-trusting, self-exalting nature that puts itself above God.

By allowing sin to touch His person through the Son, He would be able to prevail in Himself over that which we were powerless to overcome. Through the physical body of Jesus, sin came face-to-face with the power of God. And God prevailed over sin utterly and completely.

This underscores the fallacy of any law-based or performance-based approach to God. Jesus became sin for us because we were powerless to deal with it on our own. We cannot do anything that will allow us to get to God...”He did it all! He condemned sin in sinful man” (Rom. 8:3). Notice it is not sinful people that were condemned, but the sin in their (flesh). Thus we are free from condemnation in Jesus because He already bore that condemnation. He opened the gate for all who wanted to be free and to live in the life of the Father.

God’s focus was on sin and on the power of sin itself, by taking care of the power of sin He provided for us not to be a slave to sin thus breaking sin’s hold on us. The cross was not primarily about exacting punishment; it was about prevailing over sin itself.

God is not about destroying sinful people but about destroying the sin that destroys His loved people. In that sense God’s wrath is curative not punitive. His primary purpose is not to hurt us as sinning sinners, but to heal and redeem sinning people from sin.

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