Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why the Cross? (Part 3)

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.

4. We Can’t Pay

Another dilemma is that because we humans are so imperfect, there is no way we can fully pay the penalty for our numerous sins. Even our good works are inadequate – they can’t offset all the bad things we have done over our lifetimes, as we read in Isaiah 64:6a:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. NIV

We read in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved from the penalty of our sins only through God’s grace when we put our faith and trust in Jesus:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. NRSV

So God’s plan was for Jesus to pay our penalty for us – only God is big enough to satisfy his own justice once and for all. Since the result of sin is spiritual death, the only way to pay that terrible price is for Jesus to die a human death as we read in Romans 6:23:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NRSV

5. Jesus’ Death an Act of Love

Jesus didn’t die to satisfy a wrathful and vengeful God, but to put things back into balance so we could have that relationship with God. Those who commit their lives to Jesus and follow God’s plan for salvation receive eternal life, as we read in John 3:16-18:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” NRSV

Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate act of love because he suffered for those he loves – us, as we read in John 15:13:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

6. Jesus Restored Us to Our Rightful Place

We should understand we are all God’s creation, but only those who have put their faith in Jesus are God’s children, as we read in John 1:12:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. NRSV

Similarly, it says in Galatians 4:4a, 5b:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … so that we might receive adoption as children. NRSV

More on this in a future post.

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