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 Corinthians 1:18)
All over the country, you can see crosses displayed inside and outside churches and chapels. People will sometimes wear a crucifix as jewellery. But it is so easy to miss the real meaning that the symbol of the cross should convey when we see it.
The cross of Jesus Christ is the central theme of the Bible. The old testament prophets predicted it, the new testament gospels writers tell its story and the church letters explain its meaning.
I invite you to think about the story of the cross, remember how God’s only son was crucified two centuries ago and consider what that means for us today.
The reality of Sin
You do not need to read far into the bible to find that the first man and woman on earth sinned against God. Simple guidelines which God gave to them were not obeyed. They had been warned that should they disobey; they would die. That is exactly what happened and because of their sin, death entered the world. The one certainty of life is that we will die. That should be a wake-up call to everyone. As the world battles with COVID 19 we are especially aware of the fragile nature of life. All of mankind has inherited the sinful nature of their forefathers. That nature has led to rebellion against God and separation from his care. The
Bible explains: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The extent of sin and human depravity is clear and the evidence all around. But it is not necessarily what we might consider to be the worst of behaviour that is most serious and keeps us from relationship with God. For example, in the book of Proverbs God says:
“I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13)
The radical rescue from God
What we might consider to be minor or even trivial, clearly presents a barrier to God. Yet to our amazement and despite our rebellion, God loves us. That is the wonderful message of Easter. Not only that, the story of Easter unveils His plan to rescue us from His righteous wrath and the judgement we deserve.
Our only hope of rescue from the judgement of God was for help to come from him. Someone perfect and sinless had to substitute on our behalf. So, in amazing love and grace, God sent Jesus, his only Son. He died so that we need not die. Listen to this great message of hope from the bible:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The resistance of man reformed
Jesus, God’s son, was born on earth as a baby. He grew as a normal boy through teenage and twenties. At the age of 30 he began to travel through Palestine. He taught about the kingdom of God and called God’s people to repent of their sins. To show what God was like he healed the sick and raised those who were dead. However, the religious leaders of his day would not accept his message. They thought that they knew better and would not accept his claim to be the Son of God. Inexplicably, they plotted to kill Him despite the goodness of his life.
At the time of the Jewish Passover, they bribed one of His disciples, to betray Jesus. He was arrested and subjected to trial on trumped up charges. They then pressed the Roman governor of the day to pass sentence of death as they did not have that authority. Giving in to mob pressure, Pilate did sentence Jesus to be crucified even although he did not agree that Jesus was guilty. Crucifixion was a particularly cruel form of public execution. One historian, a doctor, records the events in this way:
“Two other men, both criminals were also led out with him to be crucified. When they came to the place called Calvary, they crucified him there along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing. And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and even the rulers sneered at him. They said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One”. The soldiers also came up to him and mocked him….There was a notice above him which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. It was now about noon and darkness came over the land until three in the afternoon for the sun stopped shining….Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:32-36; 38; 44; 46-47)
Jesus was buried in a new tomb by two of His friends. Women who followed were determined to honour him despite the cruel treatment of their leaders. They came to his grave to anoint his body three days later. When they arrived, the grave was empty. Fortunately, God sent angels to explain to them that Jesus had risen from death. The angels also reminded them that this was exactly what Jesus had predicted long before the recent events occurred.
Jesus later met with His followers on several occasions before ascending into Heaven watched by his startled followers. As they looked up to heaven, angels brought this assurance that he would return to the very spot from which he left earth – an event awaited by Christians today.
The radiant hope of Easter
This cross of Jesus Christ brings great hope for the world today.
The first is that Jesus made it possible for sin to be forgiven. In old testament times, animals were sacrificed regularly for the sin of the people. But when Jesus died on the cross, He was the final sacrifice. This is how the bible explains it:
“Day after day every high priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices that can never take away sin. But when this high priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:11-12)
We deserve to be punished by God for our sins, but Jesus took our place. If we confess our sins to God and repent, believing God’s word, he will forgive and restore relationship with himself. One great Easter hymn put it like this:
This the power of the cross:
Son of God, slain for us.
What a love! What a Cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross
The second is that by rising again, Jesus defeated death. Death is not the end. For the Christian, there is assurance of eternal life, life in God’s presence with relationship restored. As Easter comes we are reminded to give thanks to God for His indescribable gift!
Moira E Gillespie