5 Things We Miss About The Cross
Today is Good Friday. It is the day we remember the death of Jesus and think about why it matters.
Over the past few years my understanding of these events has deepened and brought me even greater peace and left me feeling even more grateful for Jesus sacrifice. However, the things I have learned have actually meant I have had to rethink previously held convictions. Looking back, I would say these convictions were probably more culturally held, rather than being rooted in the revelation found in the Scripture, and of the reality of Jesus being the exact revelation of the nature of God.
My hope is that whether you are reading this as a follower of Jesus, or you are just curious to see why this day is important to me, that you would come away with a greater appreciation of the love that God has towards all humanity and indeed yourself.
So without further ado, here are “5 Things We Miss About The Cross.”
1. God didn’t kill him. Despite various groups declaring that God the Father killed God the Son, we know this not to be true. We know that Jesus’ life and teaching were provocative. We know that Jesus was considered a rebel as He advocated for inclusivity, grace and mercy. The Scriptures clearly show that Jesus was crucified because He shared a message worth dying for. It was in fact, us humans that killed Jesus – not God. Jesus wilfully went along with it in order to show us His love.
The truth: Jesus died because He preached a message of love, grace and mercy. A message people rejected.
2. God didn’t punish Jesus. There is a passage in Isaiah 53 that is badly misunderstood. Let me quote from verse 4.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But…”
Here we see that the author is saying that we considered Jesus punished by God but… The rest of the chapter goes on to say that Jesus was plagued or infected by our sin sickness. The metaphor the author uses is of a prayer burden. Like when you feel another’s burden so strongly that it feels like your own. In verse 12 it finishes by saying,
“For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Here we see what Jesus was doing on the cross. He was not being punished by God, although, that is what it looked like. Instead, He is carrying our burden for us like a prayer burden. All the sin, shame, and darkness that you have ever tried to carry, Jesus takes from you and deals with it on the cross.
The truth: Jesus was carrying your burden away.
3. God didn’t hide His face from Jesus. As Jesus died upon the cross He cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” People have often said that God turned away His face or abandoned Jesus on the cross because He now took on all our sin. It is the idea that God who is holy, cannot stay connected to that which is not holy.
Firstly, this cannot be true. Jesus is the exact representation of what God is like. And as we discussed in point 1, Jesus was killed because of His inclusive, all embracing, religion defying message. Jesus invited everyone regardless of race, religion, gender and social standing. The religious leaders hated that Jesus touched and embraced “dirty” sinners. In the Old Testament if you touched God you would die. But Jesus changes our mind about this and says that was an incorrect portrayal of who God is. Instead, when you touch God you are healed!
Secondly, this verse in question is the opening line of Psalm 22. Although this Psalm was composed hundreds of years prior to the first Good Friday, it is incredibly prophetic. It predicts the Messiahs hands and feet being pierced and describes the scene at the cross, just as it was historically recorded.
Although some will say this cry proves God abandoned the Son on the cross – a result of Jesus taking on all our sin and darkness as we just mentioned – the meaning of the Psalm is that although we feel awful God never turns away. Verse 24 says this perfectly clearly,
For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
The Truth: Jesus felt all our shame, all our guilt, all our sin, all our darkness. He felt abandoned by God. That’s how we often feel. But He took what we could not handle, and beat it for us. He took it to God and in faith declared that no matter how bad it gets, God has not turned His face away from us.
4. Jesus forgave before He was asked. As Jesus died upon the cross He was at His forgiving best. He forgives the man crucified next to Him. He forgives those torturing Him, “Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they are doing.” And as He breathes His last He cries out, “Father, it is finished.” He forgave people before they asked.
The Scriptures affirm this. Jesus taught that forgiveness has nothing to do with how others respond. Forgiveness starts with us regardless of whether people deserve it or not. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was slain before the foundations of the Earth meaning that this forgiveness plan was from the start of time. He forgave us before we were created, He forgave us before He came to Earth, He forgave us before we even asked for it.
The truth: Forgiveness flows from the loving heart of God towards us. He forgives because He loves us – not because we ask for it.
5. The cross did not change God’s mind about us. Some say that God only loves us because Jesus dealt with our sin on our behalf. But this is not consistent with the revelation of Jesus. Jesus said that He and the Father were one. That if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. Paul said Jesus was the image of the invisible God. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the exact picture of what God is like. In a nutshell, God looks like Jesus, always has, always will.
The apostle John says that “God is love.” He goes on to say that love looks like laying down your life for your friends. Jesus: dying on the cross, bearing others sin and shame and darkness, carrying and defeating our burdens and battles for us, freely forgiving, never retaliating, non-violent peace loving – that is what God is like all the time!
The truth: The cross didn’t change God’s mind. It revealed it. He loves us all!
Firstly, if you have made it this far through “5 Things We Miss About The Cross”, Well Done!
Secondly, let me summarise what Good Friday is about and why it matters. Good Friday is about God showing us exactly what God is like. It’s about turning our image of God on its head, from a religious and oppressive picture, to a gracious, inclusive and joyful revelation. Good Friday reveals that God looks like love. That God carries our burdens away for us. That God defeats our battles for us. That God loves and forgives us before we have even asked for it.
Good Friday is an invitation to relationship with God. It may sound strange to you, but my story is that God literally took away my darkness and hopelessness and filled me with life, passion and purpose. That story is multiplied over a billion times around the world today. Today, know that God loves and accepts you before you accept Him, but He is inviting you to know Him today. He wants to take the burden off your shoulders, and fill you with love and peace. If that’s something you would like – please reach out to me, I’d love to chat and pray with you. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you everyone for reading, I pray you would know the love and grace of God this Easter weekend.