WHAT HAPPENED ON THE CROSS?
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, March 29, 2020. This is part one of a two part series called What Happened on the Cross?
INTRODUCTION Easter is just two weeks away. We will worship the risen, living, reigning Jesus. As we anticipate Easter, I thought it would be a good idea to spend two Sundays diving deeper into the Cross of Christ.
Specifically, I want to discover what happened on the cross. After studying it this week, let me tell you, so much happened on the cross. Once we start unpacking it, there is one life-changing insight after another life-changing insight, one truth after another that you will want to claim.
This week, I will share several ways the cross impacts our lives. It will be like a survey to get the view from 30,000 feet. Then, next Sunday, we'll focus deeply on one way the cross changes everything.
I believe your faith will grow stronger after these two teachings. You will love Jesus more than ever before. Your commitment to follow him will be fired up. I expect you will experience new areas of spiritual growth.
Here's what I'm going to cover today:
1. God's plan for the world. 2. The place of the cross in God's plan for the world. 3. The power of the cross in God's plan for the world.
1. GOD'S PLAN FOR THE WORLD What is God's plan for the world? To find an answer, let's read Luke's account of the Passover meal Jesus celebrated with his disciples on the evening he was betrayed:
(Luke 22:14-23) When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer... 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
We learn from this gathering of Jesus and his disciples, that the Bible is not first and foremost a book about personal self-improvement. The Bible is a story about God and his plan to find a people for himself and to bind himself to them by covenant.
When Jesus re-interpreted the Passover meal to point to himself, he tied himself to God's story in the Old Testament. God pursued Abram and eventually formed the nation of Israel for a covenant relationship. But as the Old Testament ends, we sense that there is more to come.
The prophets envisioned God himself coming to Israel to redeem, rescue and restore them and through them all peoples and ultimately the entire universe. In Jesus Christ, there is a new covenant, a new people, and a new creation. Christ and his cross are the critical element in God's plan to the redeem of all things:
(1 Corinthians 1:23) We preach Christ crucified.
[Additional note: Jesus was born a Jew, a descendant of King David, of the tribe of Judah. He came to re-gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He came to re-build a nation for God and through them, people for God from every nation.
Jesus re-enacted and fulfilled in greater measure God's great saving acts in Israel's history: Jesus was the ultimate Moses who led his people out of bondage with mighty miracles; he was the ultimate Temple where God and his people met; he was the Passover Lamb who delivered his people from death by his own death; he was the Sacrificial Lamb whose blood sealed the new covenant; he was the first citizen of the new creation; and he was the ultimate King who called his people to surrender to his rule and to follow his teachings.
Jesus came into the world to rescue and return Israel to God and through them to rescue and return the world to God; not only people, but the entire creation will be re-made and re-stored to God through Jesus Christ.
It is in light of this, that we can most fully enter into the meaning of the the Cross of Christ. It is about personal salvation, yes, but it is about so much more.]
2. THE PLACE OF THE CROSS IN GOD'S PLAN FOR THE WORLD Let's explore the place of the cross in God's plan for the world. We begin with Luke's account of the crucifixion of Jesus:
(Luke 23:33) When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
Do you notice anything about the description? It's bare bones. None of the Gospels go into detail. Why not? Because the details of Jesus' physical suffering are not the point. The point is the purpose for which Jesus hung on the cross. The apostle Paul described the purpose:
(1 Corinthians 15:3) Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
(Romans 3:25) God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
Atonement is the key word. It means to cleanse or wipe away. At the cross, Jesus wiped away our sins and restored us to God. Think of the word atonement as at-one-ment. God came looking for us in Jesus Christ and by the cross, he brought us home to God. The Apostle Peter agrees:
(1 Peter 3:18) Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
That is a wonderful insight. But it does not answer the question of how. What is the power of the cross to atone for sins and bring us to God?
3. THE POWER OF THE CROSS IN GOD'S PLAN FOR THE WORLD What is the power of the cross? How does it work? Jesus and the Apostles tell us that it has the power to meet our deepest human needs. For example, Jesus told his disciples:
(Mark 10:45) "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom (Gk. lutron, the price of release) for many.”
Why did we need a ransom to be paid. From earliest days, Christians believed that we needed to be set free from our captivity to sin, death, and the devil. Jesus paid the ransom and set us free. (We'll discuss this in depth next week).
Ransom is only one of many ways the cross meets our needs, atones for sin, and brings us home to God. Here's a brief sample:
We were without God so Jesus died on the cross to seal a new covenant that binds God to us forever - Hebrews 8:6-13.
We were lost sheep so Jesus, the good shepherd, laid down his life on the cross to bring us into the sheepfold - John 10:11-18.
We were dead in sins so Jesus removed our sins at the cross and rose from the dead to give us new life/new creation - John 11:25-27
I could go on an on. The cross of Christ has immense power to meet our deepest human needs and, in this way to form a new humanity for a new creation restored to God.
CONCLUSION: ONE FACT REMAINS After all is said and done, one fact remains: Moved by his deep love and mercy towards us, Jesus died for our sins to bring us to God. That fact never grows old even if we can never fully explain it. Cling to the fact just as all Christians always have:
(Romans 5:8) God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
May I encourage you to make the power of Christ and his cross your own personal experience by faith. If you have never before, now is the time to receive Jesus as your Savior, just as the apostle Paul once did. He wrote about it:
(1 Timothy 1:15-17) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Our experience of Christ and his Cross leads us into joyful, grateful, loving praise. We can join with the creatures and angels in heaven as they sing their new song: "You are worthy ... because you were slain and with your blood you purchased people for God" (Revelation 5:9). ADDENDUM: THE NEW CREATION Because of Jesus and his cross, we are part of the new creation that is waiting to be revealed.
(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(Romans 8:18-21) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
(Revelation 21:1) Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
(Revelation 21:3-5) I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”