Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why the Cross? (Part 1)

Since we are in Holy Week for Christians, we hear about Jesus’ Last Supper, his arrest, and his execution as a criminal on a Roman cross. Since Jesus’ death on the cross is central to Christianity, we should understand why such a thing happened. I’ll try to explain this in a series of posts.

I. Introduction

1. Christianity’s Uniqueness

To an outsider, Christianity may seem like a strange religion. Its founder claimed to be God, yet was put to death as a criminal. Jesus worked miracles, yet never freed his people from their foreign oppressors or established an earthly kingdom as expected. His coming and many aspects of his life were accurately predicted in the Hebrew Bible, yet most Jews remain unconvinced of his messiahship. Despite claiming to be a king, he was born in a stable, worked as a craftsman most of his life in an obscure village on the fringes of the Roman Empire, and was materially poor.

Yet this movement he started grew from twelve ordinary men and a handful of women to about two billion people today. From a small Jewish fringe group Christianity became the largest religion in the world.

2. Jesus’ Death Misunderstood

Yet some followers of Christ still aren’t completely sure why he had to go to the cross, and many skeptics have strange ideas about his death. Jesus clearly knew he was going to die a violent death in Jerusalem, yet went there anyway and even provoked the authorities.

3. Purpose Is to Explain Why

In Holy Week, we will hear talks about Christ’s suffering and death and especially his glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday. But there might not be too much said as to why all this happened. In these posts I want to explain why it was God’s plan to send Jesus to earth for the main purpose of what happened in Good Friday.

To do this we have to delve deeper into theology than we might want to, but it is at the heart of the Christian faith and we should understand it. After all, the cross is the Christian symbol, communion is the Christian main sacrament (“body and blood of Christ”), and Christian hymns refer to Jesus’ shed blood or his death. I hope this series of posts will help explain why the cross is so important to Christians and why it was necessary for Jesus to endure what he endured.

More on Jesus’ crucifixion in a future post.

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