Category Archives: The Cross
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ’The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
Verse 1 opens with the women walking to the Lord’s tomb very early in the morning. These women have names and they have stories. Verse 10 tells us Mary Magdalene walked with them. The Lord cast seven demons out of this Mary. Joanna went with them to the tomb. Luke 8:3 tells us that Joanna traveled with Jesus. Her husband was a manger of King Herod’s household, and she helped support Jesus’ travels and preaching from her own financial means. Then there Mary the mother of James, the mother of an apostle chosen by Jesus, journeyed to the tomb. These were women with names and with stories.
They traveled “very early in the morning.” Literally …
All the gospel writers tell us that Jesus died on the cross.
Jesus died. The fact is so commonplace it seems strange to even mention it. Almost hollow. Almost as if we’ve said nothing new or meaningful. But “new” and “meaningful” are two very different things. We’re sometimes too accustomed to thinking that meaning comes from newness. Old truths are still true, and therefore still very meaningful. Because a thing is familiar, because we’ve heard it before, does not mean we can pass it by without reflecting on its meaning.
Jesus died. What can it mean to say the Son of God died? And how should the Christian respond to that news?
The death of Jesus Christ means the death of death itself. The death of death in the death of Jesus Christ also means victory over death for those who trust in Christ as their God and Savior.
What Exactly Is ‘Death’?
First, death is a curse.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:15-17)
Second, death is a wage.
“For the wages of sin is death….” (Rom. 6:23)
Third, the Bible calls death an enemy.
“Death has climbed through the windows and has entered our fortress; it has cut off …
Once again we hear the scream: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Once again we ask ourselves, What can this mean?
3. The Father Allowed the Son to Suffer Spiritual Wrath
This is the deepest, darkest part of Jesus’ suffering. Social abandonment was horrible but came from outside. Emotional desertion was painful but only inside Jesus. This spiritual forsakenness, spiritual wrath from the Father, occurs deep down in the very godhead itself. We dare not speculate lest we blaspheme. But something was torn in the very fabric of the relationship between Father and Son.
To get a sense of this, we must remember what the relationship between Father and Son had been from eternity past. The opening words of the apostle John’s Gospel tell us. John 1:1-2—“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” For all eternity, Jesus lived with the Father. And not just with the Father. The Greek word pros, translated “with”, can have the sense of “to” or “toward.” In other words, the Word, Jesus, was with God, turned toward Him in face-to-face fellowship. That’s all the Lord Jesus had ever known—the loving, approving, shining face of His Father.
And to be turned face-to-face with God the Father is the Bible’s idea …
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Can you feel the sense of emotional torture in the Savior’s cry? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s difficult to read those words, imagine that scene, and not shudder in horror. In we look long into that anguished cry, we glimpse something of what it means for the Father to forsake His Son. First, the Father allowed the Son to suffer social abandonment. But there’s more.
2. The Father Allowed Jesus to Suffer Emotional Desertion
Of course, the cry itself is a quote of Psalm 22:1. Psalm 22 is a psalm of David. It’s one of the Messianic psalms that clearly point beyond anything David ever experienced to the experience of Jesus the Messiah. The psalm is best read on Jesus’ lips.
Four contrasts in Ps. 22 give us a glimpse of the emotional intensity of Jesus’ cry. These contrasts are really gaps—gaps between Jesus’ expectation and God’s actions on that day. For forsakenness is not simply a matter of loneliness. Forsakenness involves loneliness, but extends to something deeper. Nor is forsakenness simply a matter of being let down. Forsakenness is that loneliness and let down that includes a sense of betrayal—at least the betrayal of unfulfilled expectations. The U.S. Marines pride themselves on “never leaving a man behind on the battle field.” To leave your troops and fellow soldiers stranded represents the greatest betrayal. That’s forsakenness. Or, imagine the groom dressed in his tuxedo awaiting his bride. While expecting …
Someone has described the four Gospels as “passion narratives with extended introductions.” Indeed. All the action and teaching prior to the passion of Christ serves as harbinger to the suffering to come. The scenes grow more affecting from Gethsemane. The intensity swells until the heart nearly bursts. Consider Matthew 27:
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 ”He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for …
One of the most moving scenes in all the gospels is the night the Lord of heaven and earth fell face down in blood-sweating, agonizing prayer. Matthew 26 gives us one account:
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 ”Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son …
20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Cor. 1:20-25)
Where are wisdom and power found? Surprisingly for those accustomed to seeking power in shows of strength and wisdom in learned halls, it’s found in the preaching of the cross. And we’re not talking about any kind of power or wisdom, but the power and wisdom of God.
Can the world produce one wise man, scholar, or philosopher whose intellectual achievements can rival those of God? After all, the best sages and seers could not scale the heights of heaven and take hold of glory by the productions of their minds. “The world through its wisdom did not know God.”
God is pleased by something else–by being known, showing his power, revealing his wisdom through the …
More from Sinclair Ferguson’s Grow in Grace:
The Cross demonstrates the justice of God.
Sometimes when we explain the message of the gospel to others we say something like this: ‘God has laid aside his justice. He no longer deals with us as sinners; he forgets our sin, and accepts us.’ But when we say this we distort the biblical teaching. For the New Testament’s message is not ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses.’ Rather, it is: ‘God was in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them‘ (2 Cor. 5:19). Do you see the difference?
God did count our trespasses. It is not on Mount Sinai that we discover this. There we hear God telling us what our trespasses are, and that he will in no way pass by sin. But it is only on Mount Calvary that we witness God counting men’s sins, demonstrating his perfect justice. Yes, it is wonderfully true that he does not count our sins against us. But it is not the ultimate wonder. The wonder of all wonders is that God counted our trespasses against his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not pass them by; he punished them to the full in the person who ‘himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Pet. 2:24). That was why Jesus cried out on the cross: ‘My God, I am forsaken–why? why?’ Heaven’s answer was ‘Because you stand in the place of sinners; you bear their …
On Wednesday nights, I open our Bible study meeting with about 5-10 minutes reading a book. We’ve read through some great books in the 3.5 years we’ve been doing this. Currently, we’re reading Sinclair Ferguson’s Grow in Grace (Banner, 1989). We’re in chapter 5 where Sinclair has landed upon the cross. Or, from the reading, it seems better to say the cross has landed upon him! He is meditating on three things the cross means. He asks the all-important questions: “How do we find the grace of God in the cross? How has it become God’s instrument of salvation to those who have faith?” Then he gives three Pauline reasons in answer. I’ll print quotes from each section in the next couple of posts.
The Cross of Christ demonstrates the love of God
When the famous text John 3:16 tells us taht God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that men might not perish, it means that God gave his Son over to the death of the cross. The cross is the measure of the love of God. That is why James Denney, a Scottish theologian of a former generation, used to say that the only time he ever envied a Roman priest his crucifix was when he wanted to brandish one before his hearers and say: ‘God loves you like that!’ Although he used no such visual aid the apostle Paul saw this as the burden of his own preaching. We …
“For the message 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).
David E. Garland’s commentary on this verse:
Since the cross represents painful death and profound humiliation, it calls into question the conventional wisdom about power and the divine. The ancients took for granted the deities possessed power, and the degree of their power determined their ranking in the pyramid of gods. In the cross, that pyramid is turned upside down. The most powerful God appears to be the most powerless. The cross makes hash of all secular and religious attempts based on human wisdom to make sense of God and the world. Victory is won by giving up life, not taking it. Selfish domination of others is discredited. Shame is removed through divine identification with the shamed in a shameful death. God offers a new paradigm that makes the experience of shame the highest path to glory and honor. What makes the story of the cross even more offensive to humans is that it is not simply the foundation of human redemption but is also to become the way of life for believers. They, too, will endure the wounds from slander, mockery, and affliction as they live for others.
The ominpotent God takes our shame in the most shameful death, so that we in identification with His shameful death participate in His all-surpassing glory. Come Lord Jesus!