The Centrality of the Cross




Of all the unique things Jesus accomplished on earth his earthly mission – his miraculous conception, his love and acts of compassion, his parables, the amazing teaching, the example he set for us, his fulfillment of prophecy, his power over demons, his miracles – Jesus wanted to be remembered for his death.

    Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. . . .”

    1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus' sacrifice was so critical to his mission that he insisted on its centrality even though doing so caused many of his followers to leave him:

    John 6:53,60,66 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. . . .” On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” . . . From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Right from the beginning, the prophet divinely ordained to ready people for the coming of the Son of God, John the Baptist, zeroed in on this aspect of Jesus’ ministry:

    John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  . . .”

He was referring to Jesus as the sacrificial lamb and this role is again emphasized in the last book of the Bible. It says that in the entire universe no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. This was so serious that the apostle John wept but one of the elders told him not to weep because there is one who has triumphed and is able to open the scroll. The text continues:

    Revelation 5:6,9-12 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne . . . And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

“Lamb” is one of the favorite titles repeatedly given to Jesus throughout the book of Revelation and it is always a reference to him as being the sacrificial lamb. In fact, his blood/death is mentioned several times in this context. Note also the power associated to this sacrifice:

    Revelation 7:14  . . . they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

    Revelation 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb . . .

    Revelation 13:8  . . . the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

Likewise, the apostle Paul strongly emphasized the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice. Here are just a few examples:

    1 Corinthians 1:17,18,22,23; 2:2 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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. . . . Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified . . . For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

    2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

    Romans 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin

    Galatians 1:3-4  . . . the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father

    Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

    Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

    Galatians 5:11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.

    Galatians 6:12,14 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. . . . May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.



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