The Purpose of the Cross
The Gospel writers, without exception, do not dwell on the manner in which Jesus was crucified. Indeed, if you search the Gospels, you will discover that there are very few details concerning Christ’s physical suffering. Given the exceptionally brutal manner in which He was executed and the fact that all of Scripture moves us toward the cross, this absence of detail should give us pause, causing us to wonder why the Savior’s death is captured only in that simple phrase “There they crucified him.”
Presumably, the Gospel writers understood that if they focused on the physical sufferings of Jesus, then we could very easily stop at that. We might mistakenly think that once we have been gripped, stirred, and moved by this dreadful scene, we have come to terms with it. In point of fact, though, to focus on the outward aspects—the physicality—of this terrible event is to miss the purpose of the cross altogether.
For this reason, the Gospel writers did not explain much of what Jesus’ physical suffering was like but rather point to what was happening to Him spiritually as He hung there. Their focus is more on the purpose of the cross than on the cross itself.
Throughout Scripture—indeed, from the very beginning of it all, in the book of Genesis—the greatest need of humanity is atonement. As soon as the first man and woman turned their backs on God in the Garden of Eden, they were alienated from Him on account of their disobedience. Ever since, humanity has followed in our first ancestors’ steps: we, too, turn our backs on God and live in His world in rebellion against Him. This sin, this alienation, must be atoned for, and no amount or doing or trying on our part can reconcile us to God.
But in Jesus, “the righteousness of God has been manifested” to us (Romans 3:21), and we are reconciled to the Father through faith in the Son, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). This is atonement. This is the place where the Father’s wrath over sin was turned away from sinners and onto another—onto His own Son. This is the purpose, the great and wondrous achievement, of the cross.
There is all the difference in the world between sympathy for Jesus as the perfect sufferer and faith in Christ as our personal Savior. Stop and consider what He hung on the cross to do. Reflect on His spiritual suffering—the agony of bearing the judgment of His Father. Do not gaze on Him so that you feel sorry for Him, but until you are worshiping Him.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
The Death of Jesus
33And when the sixth hour6 had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.7 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he8 breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son9 of God!”
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