A Deeper Look at the Cross
By J. Mark Jordan
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
The cross of Christ brings the two greatest opposite forces known to man-life and death-together into a single event. It makes both God and man do what neither of them could previously do, combines both defeat and victory and offers for free the most precious and expensive commodity ever known. The cross defined Christ, birthed the church, and set believers free even as they became its slaves. The cross defined Christ, birthed the church, and set believers free even as they became its slaves. The cross of Jesus Christ slammed the gates on an entire religion-not by destroying it-but by fulfilling that religion’s tenets of faith. It made those responsible for it guilty of murder, but simultaneously made them vehicles for the miracle of salvation.
Consider the following facts about the cross: a) I was both legal and illegal. b) It was a dark conspiracy, and yet a glorious, prophetic plan. c) It was the work of sinners and self-righteous enemies, yet it was the work of God. d) It was Christ’s own choice, yet it was preordained that he should die. Spiritual death and spiritual life both proceed from this one, watershed event.
The death of Jesus was legal because a prisoner was arrested, forced to appear before a judge, charged with a crime, cross-examined, faced by witnesses, handed a verdict, and executed. Yet the cross was an illegal act. Jesus was arrested by betrayal, not guilty of the charges, perjured by false witnesses, victimized by a politicized verdict, and executed through a gross miscarriage of justice.
The crucifixion was a dark conspiracy. A council appointed by the chief priests and Pharisees rationalized that he should be sacrificed for the good of the nation. To this end, they put a plan in motion involving false charges, lying witnesses and harassment to have Jesus put to death. (John 11:47-53. See also Matthew 26:59-67, 64-67.) At the same time, the death of Jesus was a glorious prophetic plan. Though his conspirators were unaware, the trail of his blood began with prophetic utterances hundreds of years before Bethlehem. His betrayal, the thirty pieces of silver, the false witnesses, his pierced body and many other aspects of his death were all plainly spoken of in prophecy. He knew this was his destiny. (Matthew 18:11).
The death of Jesus was the work of both sinners and self-righteous enemies. We read of the false witnesses, the Roman soldiers, the sycophant Pontius Pilate who believed Jesus was innocent but lacked the political courage to resist the chief priests. Jesus angered the self-righteous Jewish leaders by his scorching expose of their hypocrisy and pride. (Matthew 23:27-39) Through envy and pride, the Jews essentially saw themselves locked in a power struggle for the leadership of the nation. But the death of Jesus was not the triumph of sinners and enemies. It was the supreme work of God. Peter preached in Acts 2:22-23, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. “Moreover, Isaiah proclaims that the Messiah was smitten of God and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4).
The death of Jesus was his own choice. Jesus “fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. “Matthew 26:39. Yet, the death of Jesus was foreordained by the condition of sin. Isaiah 53:8 says “…he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
The cross transforms tragedy into triumph. I Corinthians 1:18 sharpens our focus on the cross. “ For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” I know of no one who ever achieved true spiritual victory without a deep experience of the cross in his or her life. Our resurrection exultation must and will be deepened by the preaching of the cross. May we not obsess on a bloodless display of life at the Garden Tomb and bypass the very event that the Apostle Paul says must be the source of our glory and power.