Why the cross? – Greg Laurie – www.worldnetdaily.com and www.harvest.org
I came across a list the other day of the worst inventions of all time. Among them were a detachable dog sack, which allows you to drive with your dog on the outside of your car, wigs for cats, an inflatable dart board, an anti-eating face mask, a battery-powered battery charger and an anti-prank fire alarm trap that handcuffs pranksters to the alarm they just pulled. (Of course, it is also a deterrent for anyone who may want to use it in the event of an actual fire.)
While all of these are great candidates for the worst idea of all time, there is one bad idea that rivals them all: It was when God himself was put on trial. Here was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, God in human form – and men come up with the idea of putting him to death.
But humanity’s worst mistake was, at the same time, God’s master plan. The Bible says that "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him" (Isaiah 53:10 NIV). This means the crucifixion of Jesus was not a mistake. Nor was it an afterthought. It was part of God’s plan from the very beginning. Before there was a solar system, much less a planet called Earth or a garden called Eden or a couple known as Adam and Eve, a decision was made in the councils of eternity that God himself would come to Earth as a man and would go to a cross and die in the place of all sinners. Why? So that humanity could be put into contact with God.
Jesus came to Earth to purchase back what was lost in the Garden of Eden. He came to buy back the title deed to Earth. He came to die on a cross for our sins. The Bible says, "He suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9 NIV). In his own words, he came to give his life as a ransom for many (see Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
In other words, Jesus was born to die so that we might live. The purpose of the Incarnation was for our atonement. The birth of Jesus was for the death of Jesus. The wise men had it right when they brought him the insightful gift of myrrh, an ancient embalming element. The cross was Jesus’ goal and destination from the very beginning. He spoke of it often. He spoke of it in graphic detail. He warned his disciples it was coming, yet somehow they didn’t grasp the concept until it actually unfolded before their very eyes.
But Jesus knew exactly what was coming. As he prayed facedown in the Garden of Gethsemane, he knew that Judas Iscariot was on his way with the temple guard. He knew that he would appear before Annas, then Caiaphas, then Pilate, then Herod and then back to Pilate again. He knew they would punch him and rip his beard from his face. He knew they would take the cat-o’-nine-tails and tear his back open. He knew they would nail him to a cross. But worst of all, he knew he would have to bear the sin of the entire world. And that is why He prayed, "Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me" (Matthew 27:39 NIV).
The cup he spoke of was the cup of God’s wrath, the cup of God’s judgment that should have been poured out on us. Isaiah called it "the cup of His fury" (Isaiah 51:17 NKJV). Have you ever eaten something that was so disgusting it turned your stomach? Imagine looking into this cup and what it represented. Imagine contemplating the horrors of bearing all that sin.
When Jesus pierced the darkness with his cry from the cross, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" meaning, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" I believe that at that moment, he was bearing the sins of the world – past, present and future. He was dying as a substitute for others. The guilt of our sins was imputed to Him, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf. In some mysterious way that we can never fully comprehend, God was pouring out the full measure of his wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God’s own son.
God was punishing Jesus as though he had personally committed every wicked deed by every wicked sinner. And in so doing, he could forgive and treat those redeemed ones as if they had lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness. This is called justification. It is not just merely the removal of sin; it is the imputing of the righteousness of Christ to those who put their faith in him. That is what happened when Jesus hung on the cross. And Scripture clearly teaches there was a moment when the sin of the world was placed on Jesus: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24 NIV).
We serve a God who knows what we are going through. John Stott said it well in his book, "The Cross of Christ": "Our God is a suffering God." In a prophetic description of what Jesus would experience on the cross, Isaiah wrote:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (53:3–4)
Jesus suffered because he loved and he loves. Therefore, we need to know that we are not alone in our suffering. Are you suffering today? Maybe you feel like you are the only person going through what you are going through. Jesus was called "a man of sorrows." No matter how great your difficulty or need, know that he understands.
Is your body wracked with pain? So was his. Have you ever been misunderstood, misjudged, or misrepresented? So was he. Have you ever had those who are nearest and dearest to you turn away? So has he.
If you are ever tempted to doubt God’s love, then take a long look at the cross, because there you see God’s love on display for you.