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Why the Cross?

Paul tells us that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:7-8, emphasis mine, HR). We understand that Jesus came to this world to die for our sins because no one else could accomplish this task. He was our only hope. However, someone might ask, “Why did Jesus have to die on a cross?”

Death by crucifixion was the most painful manner in which a person could be put to death. Suspended from the ground, the weight of the victim’s entire body pulled against metal spikes which were driven through the hands (wrists) and the feet. The victim would writhe in pain as he slowly died of asphyxiation.

There was a social stigma that was attached to crucifixion. Roman citizens were not candidates for crucifixion; only slaves and subject races. The Romans used crucifixion as an effective means of sending an intimidating message to those within their power: “This person was not worthy of dying like a man. Neither are the rest of you. You will obey us or this will happen to you!”

There was also the emotional suffering experienced by our Lord while He was upon the cross. He was betrayed by one friend, denied by another, and forsaken by the rest of His disciples during His hour of greatest need. He was mocked and rejected by the people He wanted desperately to save. He had to look down upon His own mother as she watched Him die.

Jesus was not executed in a “humane” manner. He came to this world knowing that he would hang on a cross and die like a criminal. Why did Jesus choose to give His life in the most painful manner possible? Why the cross?

1. To Manifest His Love For Us. Many things can happen which could cause one to wonder if God really loves them. They can lose their health, lose a loved one, lose their job or business, lose their home or possessions, etc. If we are ever tempted to doubt God’s love for us, we need look no further than the cross. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If God loved me so much that He was willing to give His Only Begotten Son for me, how can I ever doubt His love for me?

2. To Leave Us A Needed Example. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24). Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for our sins, but as He did so He left a perfect example of faithfulness, courage, love, commitment, and self-control in the face of injustice and pain. If Jesus could endure the pain and agony of the cross, then we can handle the struggles that arise in our lives.

3. To Thwart the Schemes of Satan and of the World. The world has always rejected God. This is proven in the fact that when they finally got their hands on Him (when Jesus came in the flesh), they killed Him! Jesus on the cross is this world’s opinion of God.

When Jesus died on the cross, the Jews got rid of Jesus, the world got rid of God, and Satan won. However, his victory was short lived. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24).

Satan played his trump card (death) at the cross, but it was not enough. Jesus rose from the dead victorious over every power that Satan possessed. It was in dying that Jesus was able to gain the victory and secure eternal life for mankind.

4. To Draw All Men To Himself. Jesus said of His death on the cross, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). Churches will use all kinds of programs and gimmicks to generate interest from the community and to increase their attendance, but what man needs most is to know that a Savior has died for his sins.

Christ on the cross gives man his greatest hope. The love that brought the Son of God from His Father’s side and nailed Him to a cross is the greatest love that anyone will ever know. The message of the cross is universal. It transcends time and culture. Everyone needs a Savior. Everyone needs assurance of love. Everyone needs forgiveness and peace with God. All of this is found in the cross.

5. To Demonstrate the Awfulness of Sin. Sin does not seem to be “sin” anymore. People are not called “sinners.” They are “victims” and “addicts” living the “high life,” enjoying “alternate lifestyles” and involved in “non-traditional marriages.” Our society seeks to ignore, then excuse and explain away, then finally embrace and celebrate sinful behavior. Sin is often the source of humor and entertainment. We laugh at the stumbling drunk, the strung-out addict, the womanizer, and the homosexual.

However, the death of God’s Son on the cross shows sin in its true light. It is neither funny nor excusable. It is darkness and death, pain and agony, separation from God and a plague upon all of mankind. “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13). Because of the cross, we must come to view all sin as “exceedingly sinful.”

God could have abandoned us to die in our sins without hope, but He did not. He sent His Son to die as an atonement for our sins. However, Jesus did more than just come and give His life. Paul said that He was willing to die “the death of the cross.” In purposefully enduring the most painful death possible, Jesus proved God’s love for us, gave us a perfect example, defeated Satan, left a means by which all men would be drawn to Him, and exposed the true nature of sin.