The Significance of the Cross
By Mary Kroeger
For many years I have had questions about the cross. So many things did not seem to fit. Why was a drawing or replica of a cross so important to Christians? Why did they seem to worship an instrument of torture? Why did Jesus call our Creator both 'God' and also 'Father'? How could Jesus be separated from God when it also states that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself"? Why do the scriptures place such a great emphasis on the cross? Is the Christian's emphasis on the cross justified? One woman in the Vietnamese refugee camp where we worked for some time in Hong Kong called it the Christian's idol. Was she right? Have we been idolizing the cross?
God has such a wonderful way of answering our questions! When He throws His light of understanding into our hearts we are amazed at God's wonderful way of achieving His purpose!
When God said, "Let us make man in our image," He meant just that! God is spirit, so this man had to be a spiritual image of God! He did not say that this would be so difficult that He would have many failures in the process. Can God have failures? If so, what should He do with the failures? Create a physical burning hell and keep them burning there forever? No! No! No! Our God is not a revengeful monster! He always loves, and He has the power and the ability to do what He purposes to do! He does not have failures!
What is His great desire? In 1 Tim. 2:4 we read that He wants all men to repent and to come to the knowledge of the truth! Can anyone stop God from fulfilling His desire? Does God need man's permission to do His will? He certainly did not ask permission from Saul of Tarsus to change him. If God cannot do His will, then He is not sovereign. Then 1 Cor. 15:28 would not be true. There we read that when all things are subjected to Christ, then the Son Himself will also subject Himself to the Father, so that God may be all in all!
Before Jesus was crucified He told the disciples that the Son of Man will be crucified, and the Son of Man will rise again! He NEVER said that the Son of God would die. Whenever He spoke of His death and resurrection, He said it was the Son of Man who would experience this.
Who is the Son of Man? The scriptures speak of two corporate men. The first corporate man is Adam, in whom all die. The second corporate man is Christ, the Son of Man, in whom all are made alive! We all come into this world dead in our trespasses and sins. We are first of all in Adam, the man of death, the first corporate man. How are we transferred into the second corporate man, the Man in whom there is life? The scriptures tell us that this takes place by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ! He is the way, the truth and the life! (John 14:6) He is the only way to the Father!
God always has a plan for what He wants to achieve! In Christ He has revealed His plan to us! Christ is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God! His crucifixion proved His sinlessness. God did not put any boundaries on the devil in his evil attempts to get Christ to sin. The devil even failed to get Christ to have any wrong thoughts! His cruelest torture was unsuccessful!
But it was not only the torture that He had to endure. On the cross God put on Him the sins of the whole world! Our old humanity was crucified together with Him! This helps us to understand why Jesus said that the Son of Man, the corporate Man would die! For the first time He felt separated from God, and He cried out, "My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?" How strange! He had never addressed God as God before that. He always called God His Father! Why did He feel forsaken by God, when in 2 Cor. 5:19 it says that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself?
Wonderful spiritual truths are hidden in apparent contradictions! The spiritual realm is so much greater than the physical. For this reason the Holy Spirit has to guide us into all truth. (John 16:13)
Later, on the cross, Jesus again called God His Father. He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Why the difference? When He prayed in His relationship with lost humanity, He felt separated from God. That humanity feels separated from God. It does not know God as Father. It was a cry that had its origin in His soul - in His sense of being! In Matt. 20:28 it says that He gave His soul a ransom for many! (Most translations read "life" instead of "soul". The Greek word here is "psuche", meaning "soul". It can also be translated in the sense of physical life. [REV and Commentary]) The Greek word for life is "Zoe".
The prayer, "Father forgive them." had its origin in the Father, for Jesus only did the things the Father showed Him to do! As we look at this prayer, we first get the impression that here Jesus is telling the Father what to do. But this cannot be the case, for Jesus Christ only said and did what the Father showed Him to do! It all had to originate in the Father. This tells us that the Father wanted Him to pray that prayer! Why? So we would know the complete, perfect forgiveness of both the Father and the Son! We are to know the oneness of the Father and Son!
This brings us to another question. Can God die? Many pastors and Bible teachers teach that God died for us. They say it was "God, the Son" who died. Nowhere do the scriptures teach this. Jesus always said that the Son of Man will die. Can God die? Can everlasting life die? If God's life can die, then there is no such thing as everlasting life! But the scriptures declare that in Christ we have everlasting life! Let's remember that before Jesus died, He said, "Into Your hands I commit MY spirit." This tells us that His spirit did not die! It remained with the Father! Life is in the Spirit! His physical life died, and He gave His soul - His sense of being - as a ransom for us - but His spirit emained with the Father!
It is also such a blessing to realize what Jesus actually said in Luke 24:7 and Mark 9:31. He said that the Son of Man will rise again! He will be raised on the third day. It was not just Jesus Christ who was raised; it was the corporate Son of Man who was raised! On the cross, the Son of Man took all of humanity with Him in His crucifixion and death. Then He overcame death and took humanity with Him in His resurrection! Read Romans 6! On the cross we received our forgiveness! The cross is our foundation for forgiveness, and subsequently, for our new life in Christ! It is not the physical cross itself, but in the victory that Christ, the Son of Man, procured for us!
We also have the promise that the Son of Man is coming again! "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels." (Matthew 16:27) What a glorious promise! The Son of Man, the corporate Christ is coming again! This is not an individual Jesus. This is the corporate second man, so it includes all who are in Christ! How is He coming? In the glory of the Father! What glorifies the Father? When Christ in His love and forgiveness is revealed in us, the Father is glorified!
Without the cross we would not have this promise! Christ exemplified the truth that He spoke in John 12:24 "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit." What a graphic illustration! The seed first has to die before it can bear fruit! As we participate in Christ's death to sin, the fruit of the Spirit will also appear in us!