The cross. It’s the symbol of Christianity. Everybody knows that.
You see it on churches, in churches, on Bibles, and worn by Christians. But you might also see it in vampire shows, and worn by people who think that it would make a nice adornment.
But really, what is it about the cross? And why the cross?
#1. The cross marks the end of the old and the start of the new.
From the beginning when man (Adam and Eve) fell from God’s glory and grace by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – which is a picture of the law – sin, guilt and condemnation entered. Fear, stress, and curse – like sickness and lack – followed.
Then God came to Abraham and chose the nation of Israel to demonstrate and pour His grace upon, so the world might see and turn to Him.
But after God brought Israel out of slavery and bondage in Egypt, parting the Red Sea and doing great signs and wonders for them out of His grace, they asked for the law to be given at Mt Sinai. And so began 1,500 years of man trying to keep God’s laws through his own efforts and strength.
Before Jesus came, no man succeeded in keeping all of God’s laws to God’s standards. Even David, whom God described as “a man after His own heart”, failed miserably, committing both adultery and murder.
And God knew, of course, that man wouldn’t be able to keep the law. In His grace, God already provided the practices of bringing a sacrifice as atonement for their failures the moment He gave the law.
In Jesus’s own words, He came “not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it” (Matthew 5:17). That’s why Jesus came as a man, so as to represent all of us.
At the cross, Jesus took ALL of our sins, transgressions, and iniquities, and He suffered God’s punishment and judgement for them all (Isaiah 53:4-5). He “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us…and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
The “handwriting of requirements” is God’s law, which God wrote on the 2 slabs of stone He gave to Moses. So today, we are no longer under law but under grace, and sin no longer can have any dominion or rule over us (Romans 6:14).
By His one perfect sacrifice, Jesus brought about a divine exchange purely of His grace and love, that is too marvellous to understand at one go. He took away our filth and junk and put His everlasting robe of righteousness on us.
In that one moment when we believed on Him, He made us into new creations in Christ, who would be ambassadors for Him to reconcile the rest of the world to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Jesus translated us from the old and powerless way into a new and living way, where it is no longer us trying to follow and obey the laws of God, but that God Himself would put His laws into our minds and write them on our hearts (Hebrews 8:7-12, Hebrews 10:19-20). It’s no longer us trying to live for God, but God Himself now living in us and through us (Galatians 2:19-21).
To illustrate with an example: Before the cross, Jesus told the people, “Forgive, so that you will be forgiven by your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:14) – that’s a law; after the cross, we read, “Forgive, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13) – that is to say, remember and receive His grace of forgiveness, and so extend the same grace you have received to others. His grace empowers and enables us to fulfil the law, with both desire and ability. We now love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
And know this also: The cross and the sacrifice of Jesus was on God’s heart and God’s plan all along. For Jesus is “the Lamb (who was) slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). It wasn’t something God set into motion just because man fell and failed. God’s omniscience is beyond what man can ever comprehend or fathom.
And we see His grace too in giving us free choice to choose, time after time. Because there can be no response to God’s grace if there isn’t a choice to be made.
Today, do we choose to lean on His grace and His grace alone, or do we still try to keep the law and do what’s right through our own strength and efforts?
Even though our hearts may be sincere to glorify God with our good works and obedience, if we simply try to do the right things because it is what God said to do, then what difference is there from the Israelites who tried to obey God through their law-keeping? Without a true revelation of Jesus and what His work on the cross accomplished for us, we’d essentially just continue to live life the same as the Israelites did, under the bondage of rules and the law, and Christ would’ve died in vain.
And worse, to all who attempt to be justified by the law, Christ becomes of no effect (Galatians 5:4, KJV) – that means no healing, no miracles, no breakthroughs. Let’s choose to really listen to God, and embrace His way as He really wants us to live by – by His grace, His righteousness, His strength, His power, His Spirit, not ours.
#2. It had to be on a cross so that we would be redeemed from the curse of the law.
We’ve covered this in more detail in an earlier post, so I won’t go into it too much here. Suffice to say that in dying by crucifixion on the cross, Jesus took upon Himself God’s curse – including sickness and lack, and a whole lot of other stuff – and thereby freed us from it.
Could He have picked another way to die? Of course. He’s God. But Jesus chose to humble Himself in grace to fulfil that Scripture. He is indeed both meekness and majesty, manhood and deity.
So wearing a cross doesn’t make you a Christian, no more than being in a church does. Believing on Jesus Christ and His finished work at the cross is what makes Christians Christians, notwithstanding denominational differences. Because my Bible says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).” And if you have a Bible, I’m pretty sure yours would say that too.
Let’s not let denominational intricacies and traditional age-old practices and beliefs, or even pursuit of building His kingdom and becoming good disciples distract us from the crux (yes, even this word comes from the Latin word meaning ‘cross’) and the core of all Christian belief, what God wants us to focus on: His Son Jesus and what He did at the cross, for God and for us. It is His greatest gift of love to us. The more we open it up, explore it, and unpack it, the more we access the incredible abundance of the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
And we’ll discover, it’s a gift that keeps on giving, as we keep discovering and plumbing its limitless depths. His love – for you, and for me – knows no bounds, has no ends, and will never cease.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.