The Meaning of the Cross
Without Christ’s death on the cross, there is no gospel. It is through Jesus’ sacrifice that God the Father has made it possible for sinful men and women to have fellowship with Him. If we want to know God, we must meet Him in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Only through the cross does God show both justice in punishing sin and mercy in pardoning it, paving the way for people like you and me to enter heaven without spoiling its holiness. The cross is God’s answer both to sin itself and to His anger against sin. To those who don’t believe, God’s answer sounds absolutely foolish, but those who do believe understand the cross to be the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
If God were simply to overlook sin or to stop being angry at it, then He would cease to be God; for God’s justice is inherent in His character, and justice demands that sin is punished. He cannot turn a blind eye to evil. This is wonderful news for us when we are sufferers at the hands of others; it is also sobering news for us because we are sinners ourselves.
The cross of Christ is the way that God can be just and declare innocent sinners who have placed their faith in this crucified Savior. In order to deal with sin, God in His grace sent His own Son to take the punishment that sinners deserve. Our salvation is by way of substitution. Pause to reflect on this. It is staggering, first that God would come up with this plan, and second that He would go through with it. Considering the cross should always move us to awed and humble praise.
This substitution is why all the Old Testament sacrifices point to Jesus. In Christ’s death, God’s anger, which is His righteous disposition towards sin, is satisfied, and His love for us is magnified. Men and women who come to trust in Jesus no longer need to face His wrath; we’re invited instead to rejoice at the love displayed at the cross. Indeed, all of the gospel’s blessings and benefits become ours as a result of what Jesus has accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus came to bear all of God’s condemnation of sin. When Christ took our place, He brought the judgment that we deserve and are due to face on the last day to the cross, so that we might stand before God’s throne and say, “I’m with Him. He lived the life I could not live. He died in my place.”
In his first letter, John writes of how at times “our heart condemns us” (1 John 3:20). This is an experience common to all humanity. But the Christian does not need to sear their conscience in order to still the condemnatory voice, nor must they be crushed by that voice. We can be very honest about the depth of our sinfulness because God’s love is deeper still. “There is … now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Jesus came to meet us at the cross. Forgiven sinner, will you meet Him and marvel at Him there?
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
11And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to2 one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’3 22But the father said to his servants,4 ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Get the Program, Devotional, and Bible Reading Plan delivered daily right to your inbox.