Christianity 101: Jesus & the Cross
Last week we discussed how pervasive and destructive sin really is. We talked about how, because the first people screwed up, we all suffer the consequences. But today, we’ll talk about the reason we have hope — hope for this life and the next. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the answer to the problem of sin.
Now, to understand the cross, we need to understand the Incarnation: Jesus coming to Earth as a human being.
When we discussed the Trinity, we saw that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We saw that Jesus is the Son; that is, Jesus is God. Let’s look at one passage that illustrates that.
30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Jesus claims to be God. Yet it is also clear that He was a human being. Like the Trinity, the Incarnation is extremely mysterious and impossible to fully understand. But we see in the Bible that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. He created the universe (remember John 1?), yet He came to the Earth as a baby. He ate and drank. He even died.
Here’s something even more amazing: Jesus felt temptation, yet He never sinned. Look at this passage:
17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
In Hebrews it says that He “suffered when he was tempted.” When the devil tempted Him, He felt it. In fact, He was incredibly tempted to run away from the cross.
41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
I’ve had some very anxious moments in my life, but never that bad. He was so stressed that He was sweating blood. He was “in anguish.” If I were that anxious, I would pretty much cave. But not Him. He asked God to let Him avoid the cross, but He surrendered Himself. And He still went.
It turns out that He made the same decision every time He was tempted. Look at this verse:
20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
-2 Corinthians 5:20-21
This verse describes Jesus as “him who had no sin.” Jesus lived a perfect life, a life that none of us could have lived. Then, He went willingly to die for us on the cross.
Jesus’ death atoned for our sins. Remember the sin offerings of the Law? The animals had to be pure and clean in order to be sacrificed. They would die in the place of the sinner, covering the debt and uncleanliness of sin and restoring the sinner’s relationship to God. That’s what Jesus did for us.
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
And as this passage in Hebrews says, His sacrifice takes care of everyone, once and for all. Paul describes it like Original Sin in reverse.
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
And all that’s left for us to do is accept it.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
That’s the answer to the question of our ultimate destiny. Heaven is for those who accept Jesus; Hell is for those who reject Him.
For some people, that’s where the story ends: you accept Jesus, you get your pass to Heaven, and you’re done. As Wesleyans, we think that’s where the story begins. Next week, we’ll look at what the Bible says about life once you’ve accepted Jesus.
Posted on April 1, 2012, in Christianity, God, Holiness, The Bible and tagged Christianity, God, holiness, Holy Spirit, Jesus, religion, sacrifice, sin, spirituality, The Bible. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.