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Why the Cross?

I. Introduction: The cross represents the most important message this world will ever hear. In Galatians 6:14, the apostle Paul said, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”  In other words, Paul’s position, riches, influence, reputation, and physical comfort lost their meaning when weighed against the redemption that was his through Jesus’ sacrifice.

II. A Symbol of Shame, Suffering, and Death

A. Barbarians had invented crucifixion long before the time of Christ. This painful, prolonged method of execution was handed down to the Greeks and then to the Romans, who considered it so atrocious that Roman citizens were almost never crucified.

B. The Jews also abhorred this method of execution, in part because those who “hung on a tree” (or piece of wood) were considered accursed (Deut. 21:22-23). Yet when Pilate asked the Jewish mob what he should do with Jesus, they were so angry with Christ they cried out, “Crucify Him!” (Matt. 27:22).

III. A Symbol of Salvation and Eternal Life

A. It may be surprising that the cross became the foremost symbol of Christianity, given its original association with shame, suffering, and death. Paul acknowledged, “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

B. The Gospels record that the crucifixion did not take Jesus by surprise. He knew His purpose was to die for the sake of the world (Matt. 20:28 ). He told Nicodemus He would be lifted up, even as Moses had lifted up a brass serpent (John 3:14). In Mark 8, Jesus said that He was going to suffer, be killed, and rise again in three days (vv. 29-31). He knew God would allow sinful men to execute Him–the plan of redemption had been ordained even before the world began (Acts 2:23).

C. Why was the cross so important? Everyone has sinned (Rom. 3:23), and the consequence of sin is death: both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23). Through the crucifixion, God was able to be the righteous Judge of all mankind as well as the one offering payment for our sin (Rom. 3:26). Because Christ became our substitute, bearing all the guilt of mankind and suffering separation from the Father, we can ask God to forgive our wrongdoing and rebellion against Him (Mark 15:34).

D. Unfortunately, many believers lack assurance about their salvation. Usually, this is because they have sinned after receiving Jesus as Savior and believe that, consequently, they have lost their new life in Christ. But Titus 2:14 says, “Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed” (emphasis added). That means He died for all our sins—which includes past, present and future wrongdoing. However, when we do sin, you and I should turn to the Father quickly in confession and repentance to maintain an intimate relationship with Him.

E. How should you respond to the cross of Jesus Christ if you have never placed your faith in Him?

1. Ask the Lord to forgive you of all sin based on your relationship to Him through His suffering and resurrection.

2. Accept Jesus as your personal Savior and Master, and surrender your life to Him. The moment you do, the Holy Spirit will come into your life and enable you to live righteously.

3. Once you are born-again, serve Him with your time, talents, energy, and resources.

4. Be sure to tell others the life-changing message of the cross.

IV. Conclusion:

In the days of the early church, the cross was a symbol of death, suffering, and disgrace. Today, it is still misunderstood. But for those of us who understand its significance, the cross is a powerful reminder of the beautiful sacrifice Jesus made so that we might have freedom from sin and a new life in Him. It is not merely the most commonly recognized symbol of Christianity. The cross is the very means by which you and I can experience new life here and now—and the promise of eternal life in the future.

(Copyright 2011 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.)