"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

The Cross: A Message of God’s Love

By Rich Carmicheal

    "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

   The Cross was extremely difficult for Christ to bear. As the time of His crucifixion drew near, He began to feel more of the weight the Cross would bring. He knew full well that to endure the Cross would require He experience intense physical, emotional and spiritual pain. He agonized over the decision to die on the Cross, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. In that special place of prayer He "began to be sorrowful and troubled" and asked Peter, James and John to keep watch with Him because His soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Matt. 26:37-38). He went off by Himself and "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’" (Matt. 26:39). The thought of the bitter cup of suffering that lay ahead of Him was almost too unbearable. His anguish was so intense that His "sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44). During that deep communion with His Father, He reaffirmed His full surrender to His Father’s will. He would be obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8).

    As the events associated with the crucifixion began to unfold, Jesus faced agony of all kinds. He was betrayed by one of His disciples, abandoned by the rest of His disciples, arrested, bound, and given an unfair trial laced with false testimony. People at the trial spit in His face, blindfolded Him and struck Him with their fists, slapped Him and mocked Him. He appeared before Pilate who had Him flogged and then handed Him over to be crucified. After the flogging, a whole company of soldiers gathered around Jesus and began to mock Him. They put a robe on Him, a crown of thorns on His head, and set a staff in His right hand. They knelt before Him and made fun of Him, mocking His claim to be King. They spit on Him and took a staff and struck Him on the head again and again. Then they put His own clothes back on Him and led Him away to Golgotha, the place where they would crucify Him. And there they nailed Him to the Cross, driving nails through His hands and feet.

    People who stood there watching sneered at Him, mocked Him and hurled insults at Him. Even the thieves who were being crucified on His left and right heaped insults on Him. Then darkness settled in for three hours even though it was the middle of the day.

    As horrible as all this was, the worst was what happened as Jesus took on our sin. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…" (1 Pet. 2:24). He "took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him…the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all…it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer…He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors…" (Isa. 53:4-6,10,12). He became "a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’" (Gal. 3:13). "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21).

    As Jesus took upon Himself our sin, He experienced the full weight of sin’s consequences including, worst of all, separation from His Heavenly Father. This was horrible and He cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" Soon thereafter He called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." He then breathed His last and died.

    Why was Jesus willing to endure such suffering and to give His life upon the Cross? Why was the Heavenly Father willing to send Jesus to pay such a price? The Father and Son made this great sacrifice for many wonderful reasons. Through the Cross they offer forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:22, 28), redemption (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9), justification (Rom. 5:9), peace and reconcilation (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:18), freedom from the guilt and power of sin (Rom. 6:5-7; Heb. 9:14-15), freedom from the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15), healing (Isa. 53:5), holiness (Heb. 13:12) and eternal life with the Lord (John 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:10).

    The primary reason for the Cross, however, and the foundation of all other reasons, is this marvelous truth: The Lord loves us. He loves us. More than anything else, the message of the Cross is that the Lord loves you and me. Take these verses to heart:

    "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

    "…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

    "...I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).

    "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15).

    "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

    "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…" (1 John 3:16).

    "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9).

    "…To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood" (Rev. 1:5).

   As we set our eyes upon the Cross, we have such a vivid and powerful picture of the depth of the Lord’s love for us. There we see the Father’s greatest gift to mankind as He gave His one and only Son for our salvation. There we see the Lamb of God offering His precious blood so that our sins might be forgiven and our relationship with God restored. As a gospel song beautifully expresses, "...He gave His life, what more could He give, ...O how He loves you and me."

   "And I pray that you...may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love which surpasses knowledge…" (Eph. 3:17-19).