What does the symbol of the Cross mean to you? To many people, the Cross is merely an archaic emblem. To others, the Cross invokes feelings of guilt or confusion. Some churches even see it as a hindrance to attracting nonbelievers.
Yet the early believers chose the Cross as their symbol for a special reason. There were many symbols of Jesus’ earthly ministry to represent them. They could have chosen a manger to represent where baby Jesus was born. They could have chosen a boat, from which Jesus taught the crowd in Galilee. They could have chosen an apron, which Jesus wore when He washed the disciples’ feet. They could have chosen a throne or a crown, to represent His divine and sovereign rule.
But instead they chose the Cross that proclaims that the wages of sin are fully paid, and that the perfect sacrifice has been fully offered. Through the Cross we have redemption and life with Christ in heaven. Through the Cross we know that sin has been defeated.
The Cross of Christ serves four key purposes. First, Jesus died on the Cross to satisfy God’s justice. God’s Word says that “the wages of sin are death.” (Romans 6:23). When we break God’s Law, we must pay the penalty. Jesus, the only sinless one, paid that penalty for us on the Cross.
Second, Jesus died on the Cross to redeem His own children. He delivered us from sin and death. Every one of us is born into enmity with God but God has provided the way back to Him through the Cross.
Third, Jesus died on the Cross to justify believers. It was an act of gracious justice. God does not excuse our sin as a minor concern but He forgives and restores us when we come to Him in repentance and humility through faith in Jesus Christ. God gives us salvation from sin and death as a gift — a very costly gift.
Fourth, Jesus died on the Cross to reconcile all of those who will believe in Him to His Father. Sin creates a wall between us and God; only Jesus can tear down that wall. When we are reconciled with God, it transforms us from being God’s enemies to being His children.
The Cross transforms lives. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24,25).
Without the Cross, there is no forgiveness of sin, no salvation. There can be no relief from guilt; no peace of mind; no eternal life with God in heaven. Thank God today for His precious and amazing gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The symbol of the cross did not first appear at the death of Jesus. As early as the book of Genesis, we begin to see the foreshadowing of the cross. From the moment Adam and Eve decided to go their own way from God’s commandments, God began lifting up the Cross. We see it when the blood of an innocent lamb was shed to atone for Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We see the symbol of the Cross when God’s people participated in Passover.
But these animal sacrifices of the Old Testament could never take away sin permanently. Only the pure blood of the Lamb of God can truly purge sin. The animal sacrifices reminded God’s people that sin is a costly offense to a Holy God. And these sacrifices pointed forward to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
Many people are drawn to the magnanimous love of God, but they hesitate to acknowledge the righteous and holy side of God. Righteousness demands that sin be punished. For God’s justice to prevail, sin and rebellion against God must be dealt with. Since the only covering for sin is the shedding of innocent blood, God shed His own blood — the most innocent blood of all.
Because God shed His own blood, we can find forgiveness of sins, relief from guilt, peace with God and eternal life in heaven. May all glory, honor and thanksgiving be given to God for the enormity of His sacrifice upon the Cross.
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.