Today is Good Friday, and so it makes sense for us to pause and think about the cross. The true meaning of the cross has become somewhat ambiguous in our culture today. We see the symbol of the cross on bumper stickers as well as tattooed on people’s forearms almost as if it’s a religious trademark. It’s spray-painted on concrete walls and stitched onto denim jeans. It has become a fashion statement that adorns the necks of gangster rappers and immodestly dressed Hollywood stars. We find the cross on top of steeples of churches that no longer even proclaim the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems like the cross is everywhere, and yet the average person really doesn’t understand the true meaning of the cross.
It’s interesting to note that the word “crucial” which means “decisive, critical, or essential” comes from the Latin word “crux” from which we also derive our English word “cross.” In other words, the cross of Jesus Christ is the most decisive, critical, and essential event in human history. When it comes to our salvation, the cross is the “crux” of the matter.
I Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”
I want us to see three thoughts from this verse that will help us better understand the true meaning of the cross. First of all, let’s look at the person on the cross. The person is none other than “Christ,” and He’s described as “the just.” The Greek word is “dikaios” and it means “righteous, innocent, without guilt or without fault.” The Apostle John uses this same word to describe Jesus in I John 2:1b, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: [dikaios]” He is the Righteous One giving His life as a sacrifice for the unrighteous ones. You see, not just anyone could die on the cross for our sins. The Bible says in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous [dikaios], no, not one.” One sinner cannot pay the penalty for another sinner. Why? Because every sinner has to pay the penalty for his own sin. So, God did the unthinkable! He sent His Only Son into the world to save lost sinners like you and me. Since Jesus was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life, He alone could satisfy the demands of a Holy God by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The person on the cross was the sinless Son of God – the only one capable of being the sacrifice for our sins.
But secondly, notice the passion of the cross. Our text says that He “suffered.” I don’t think we have any idea of the immense magnitude of His suffering for us.
It began by Him being betrayed by one of His very own disciples, Judas Iscariot. He was then arrested and forced to face a fake trial – He “the just” being interrogated by “the unjust.” Pilate said, “I find no fault in this man.” And yet they cried out, “Crucify him!” And so, He’s blindfolded, spit upon, and beaten by sinful men. They mocked Him by placing a scarlet robe on Him and placed upon His head a crown of thorns. They plucked His beard and beat Him some more – this time with a reed. They then placed that heavy cross upon His bloody back and demanded that He carry it to Golgotha – a place of the skull. But humanly speaking, Jesus had already been through unimaginable suffering, and so Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus.
When they finally got to Mt. Calvary, they nailed His feet and His hands to the cross. They then raised the cross and dropped it with a thud into the hole that had been dug. And there our Savior hung between earth and heaven, struggling to breathe as the weight of His body pulled Him down. With bones out of joint, He painfully tried to push Himself up to get a gasp of air. The crowd that was gathered around the foot of the cross hurled insults at Him. As His body fought dehydration, Jesus said “I thirst.” Then darkness fell over the land and He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” – “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
That question brings me to my third thought – the purpose of the cross. The purpose is summed up in those words “that he might bring us to God.” When Jesus died on the cross, the Gospel of Matthew says that the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom – a symbolic demonstration that Jesus had opened the way to God. At that moment Jesus visibly demonstrated the truth of what He had said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” For all who would come to Christ and trust Him as their personal Savior, there would now be direct and immediate access into the presence of God. Throughout the Old Testament, millions of animals were slaughtered over the centuries. During the annual Passover alone, as many as a quarter million sheep would be sacrificed. But notice again those words, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins.” The death of Jesus Christ was sufficient for all time, and His death was also sufficient for the sins of all people.
On this Good Friday, let’s be thankful for what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. But He didn’t just die for us, He arose for us – “But quickened by the Spirit.” Let’s do our best this Easter weekend to share the Gospel – Jesus died for our sins, was buried, but conquered death and the grave with His glorious resurrection.