Why the cross?

The significance of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection is both easily stated and quite difficult to appreciate. Even a child can understand sin. Even a child appreciate Jesus paying the price for our sins. Even a child can strive to model the sacrificial love of Jesus. Even a child can appreciate being forgiven. What a child cannot comprehend is exactly how Jesus’ death and resurrection reconciled us with God, and that creates a problem. What a child innocently accepts as true, an adult insists upon knowing is true, and comprehension is part of knowing.

As adults don’t we flounder when we try to understand the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice to our salvation? How then can we explain Jesus’ sacrifice to others? We can repeat the mantra, but we cannot comprehend what Jesus did, or easily make it real in our lives. We can only know the relief that comes from being forgiven, and we can look to the cross in wonderment. Therefore, we must ask God for wisdom, and we must pray for greater faith and understanding.

Perhaps in Salvageable’s post some will find an answered prayer. Here Salvageable goes over each of the analogies the Bible uses to explain what Jesus accomplished. If you have not considered the subject quite this way before (and I had not), please take the time to do so. I believe you will find it quite worthwhile, an appropriate Bible study for Holy Week.

Salvageable

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, an eight-day Christian commemoration of the most important week in the history of the world. On a Sunday nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. There he cleared the Temple of merchants and money-changers, then taught in the Temple and debated his opponents. On Thursday night Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples and give his church the gift of the Lord’s Supper. Then he went to a garden to pray. In the garden he was arrested, and from there he was taken to trials before Jewish leaders and Roman leaders. Accused first of blasphemy, then of treason against Rome, he was sentenced to die on a cross. When Jesus had died, he was taken from the cross and buried in another garden. There, on Sunday morning, he rose to complete the work that he had finished on…

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4 thoughts on “Why the cross?

  1. This is interesting. I’ve done some historical research on this in the past. The Churc had at least three predominant views on this over the centuries.

    One that was dominant until the High Middle Ages was, if I remember correctly, called the legalistic theory. It was that Satan got the legal right to men’s souls by tricking Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God offered up his own son in human form to Satan, but because Jesus could not be tempted, Satan lost the game and lost the exclusive right to men’s souls. There is an etching found at a convent that dates to the early Middles Ages. It shows God dangling Jesus down from Heaven in a fishing line with the cross as the hook to catch Satan. Satan thinks he has his prize but because Jesus is without sin, He slips away leaving Satan hooked on the cross.

    Another theory was the ransom metaphor If memory serves me, it was the idea that God needed a sacrifice for man’s disobedience. No number of mere men would serve as sacrifice enough to pay the price of offending an infinite God. Only God could pay such a price on behalf of men. I believe that this continues to be the dominant theory of the Church even now.

    One theory that came up at about the same time but was rejected along with its proponent as heresy, was what might be called the model theory. Man had once again rejected God’s love and had turned instead to hate and violence. God came down from Heaven in human form to provide the ultimate example of sacrifice, and obedience to Gods law of love. Only God, as a perfect Human, could be an ultimate example for us to follow. My understanding from reading about the lives of Abalard and St. Anselm is that the reason why this theory became heresy had more to do with the politics of the time than that it lacked theological and scriptural credibility.

    These theories are similar to the ones Salvageable lists and he enlightened me with several I had never read about. Although the last theory that I gave above has some appeal to me, like you Tom, I don’t claim to understand the mystery of Jesus death and Resurrection. I am just humbled and estounded by it.

    For Catholics, the Holy Mass is a living re-enactment of this sacred mystery. When I participate in the Mass, I no longer try to dissect and analyze it – I just try to immerse myself in the love it radiates and I try to joyfully glorify God for being given this opportunity to become one with all Christians in the Body of Christ.

    We don’t have to completely comprehend everything to know it’s truth.

    Thanks for this post. It’s a perfect reminder for Holy Week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @tsalmon

      Since I returned to Christianity late in life, I suppose that is why Ecclesiastes has such a strong appeal for me. In spite of his wisdom and his studies, King Solomon ends his book humbled.

      Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
      The Whole Duty of Man

      9 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. 12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.

      13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

      Fear God and keep His commandments,
      For this is man’s all.
      14 For God will bring every work into judgment,
      Including every secret thing,
      Whether good or evil.

      Consider verse 12. King Solomon was big on knowing things, but even he had to admit that at some point we have to accept the fact we cannot know everything. In fact, if we try too hard to understand, we loose the joy of knowing God loves us. Why that is so is a mystery we cannot begin to solve.

      Hence, we study the Bible for the joy of knowing God as well as we can, not to prove something.

      The Apostles Creed is a short, brief, statement of what a Christian needs to believe. What does it add to what King Solomon concluded? Jesus! The knowledge our Redeemer has come.

      If we want to understand the significance of the cross and Easter as much as we can, I think there are five places in the Bible we need to read.
      1. The four Gospels
      2 Psalm 22
      3. Isaiah 52:13-53:12
      4. Romans
      5. Hebrews

      That is probably enough reading for Lent.
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said Tom. I am knocked to my kneels in humility and reverence by each of those images of “Why The Cross”, and I rise up in gratitude and a renewed desire to serve the ONE who did this all, for me!

    Liked by 2 people

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