“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 Corinthians 1:18
The preaching of the cross is catalytic. It separates, divides and cuts. The premise that the capital punishment of an ancient rogue rabbi could transform our postmodern lives is absolutely moronic to the unregenerate mind. It seems narrow minded to the open minded to think that Jesus is the narrow way that leads to broad hope.
The core message of the cross is ridiculous to the non believer. At the same time for us “who are being saved it is the power of God.” I don’t care what your denominational label is if you put your faith in the finished work of Jesus as your sole hope of eternal salvation then we are being transformed together by the power of God embedded in the gospel message.
In addition to being the message that saves us it is also the great truth that unites us. The cross, like an irresistable magnet, draws together every particle of core truth in the Holy Scriptures. It brings together all of the basic theological realities that unify us as true believers, no matter what our denomination.
Here’s a short list of the big truths that the cross brings together:
- The Deity and Humanity of Christ: On the cross is the body of Jesus, the God man himself. We see Jesus Christ as fully God and fully human, yet without sin. We see this Kenosis doctrine brings together the human and divine. God’s Son poured out into real flesh and bone. One body, two wills, no sin. Because Jesus is fully human and fully divine he can relate to us (as human), truly feel and empathize with our pain and then do something about it (because he is God!)
- The Trinity: Can you hear Jesus screaming “Eloi, Eloi, Lamasbachthani” (“My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”) as he hangs from the cross? This sacred scream gives us insight into the incomprehensible doctrine of the Trinity. We imagine the Father in heaven, looking down with broken heart as his wrath is poured out on his Son for the sins of humanity. The Father weeping, the Spirit mourning, the Trinity in turmoil in a way that you and I could never understand. But one thing we do understand, the something bigger than us is happening there…that something is the Trinity.
- Salvation by Faith: Beside the cross we see the offer of salvation to underserving sinners. One thief on one side accepted it and the other thief on the other side of the cross rejected it. Neither of them deserved it. One ended up in hell and the other, as Jesus promised, ended up with him in paradise that very day, not because of his good works (hanging on the cross he had no time to do any) but because of simple faith. In the same way we are offered the same forgiveness through faith in Christ although we do not deserve it. The cross demonstrates the free offer of salvation in a powerful and personal way.
- The Resurrection: When Jesus mentioned his imminent death to Peter he also reminded him that three days later he would conquer death once and for all by rising from the dead (Matthew 16:21-22.) But Peter only seemed to hear about the dying part and he rebuked Jesus for his statement. Jesus returned the rebuke and then some. Why? Because the cross and the empty tomb were always meant to be viewed together not separately. If Jesus died but didn’t rise from the dead then he wasn’t who he claimed to be. But if he did rise then it affirms everything he said. Because he died our sins our forgiven. Because he conquered death we know that we too will conquer death someday through him.
- The Reliablity of God’s Word: The crucifixion of Christ proves that God’s Word is true and trustworthy. At the cross we see countless Old Testament prophecies finally and fully fulfilled. In Psalm 22 we see a painting so vivid you’d think the psalmist was actually at the foot of the cross. But David painted this picture centuries before Jesus actually died. From Genesis 3:15 throughout the rest of the Old Testament we see hints, clues and full out detailed prophecies to when, why and how Jesus would die (and then rise from the dead!) All of these prophecies secure the Bible for what it actually is…the inerrant Word of God!
I could go on and on. But the crucifixion of Jesus is not some dangling doctrine that hangs there by itself like a crucifix around the church’s neck. It is more like the clasp on the golden chain of truth that brings every core truth of Christianity together in a visual, visceral way. The cross points to God (think the upright part of the cross pointing straight up), bridges Old and New Testament (think the cross beam), demonstrates his deity and humanity (think of Jesus’ feet toward the ground and his head toward the heavens) and offers hope to all mankind through faith in Jesus (think of his outstretched arms).
No matter what your denominational background, geographic location and acceptance or rejection of NASCAR as a real sport (personally I don’t get it) if you believe in Jesus we are united together at the foot of the cross where all the core truths of Christianity collide.
If you are a believer in Jesus we are at Cross purposes together, forever, amen.