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What Happened at the Cross?

What Happened at the Cross?

Through the death of Christ upon the cross, sin itself was crucified for those who believe in Him.

From New York’s Fifth Avenue jewelry stores to the airport souvenir counters in Rome, Italy, one piece of jewelry is universally displayed — the cross.

What does the cross of Jesus mean?

If we stopped people on the street to ask that question we might hear, “It’s a symbol for Christianity, I guess.” If we asked them “What happened at the cross?” Some might say “Jesus was a martyr and was nailed to the cross.” Still others might say the cross was a myth. While most connect the emblem of the cross to religion, many do not understand its meaning.

Poet Thomas Victoria pictured Jesus on the cross, surrounded by men who were intent upon killing Him, and tried to express how Jesus might have spoken from the cross:

Oh, how sweet the wood of the cross,
How sweet the nails,
That I could die for you.

This deeply personal, intimate view of the cross is what the apostle Paul taught: that in the human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another,

yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8, Phillips

The focus of Paul’s ministry to the great commercial city of Corinth was summed up when he said,

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. — 1 Corinthians 2:2

But the average person in Corinth would have answered a question about the cross in the same way as the man on the street in the USA or any European, African, or Asian country. They lived in a city which was known for its depraved moral character. It was the kind of town in which we wouldn’t want to raise our families.

The Corinthians were a sophisticated, sexually dissolute bunch, who thought that the cross was ridiculous, foolish, and even idiotic. Commenting on this view, Paul said,

The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. — 1 Corinthians 1:25

The preaching of the cross of Christ was a stumbling block to the Jews and idiocy to the philosophic Greeks. The philosophers believed they could unravel divine mysteries because they were overconfident of their own mental capacities. However, Paul said that the natural man (meaning the man who does not have the Spirit of God indwelling him) cannot understand the things of God. He meant that sin has twisted our understanding of truth so that we cannot recognize the truth about God.

Before the teaching in the Bible about the cross can mean anything to us, the Spirit of God must open our minds. The Scriptures teach that a veil covers our minds as a result of our separation from God.

To an “outsider,” the cross must appear to be ridiculous. But to those who have experienced its transforming power, it has become the only remedy for the ills of each person, and of the world.

In spite of this available power, the gospel about Christ who was crucified is still unimportant to millions. They reflect the failure Paul analyzed when he questioned,

What have the philosopher, the writer and the critic of this world to show for all their wisdom? Has not God made the wisdom of this world look foolish? For it was after the world in its wisdom had failed to know God, that He in His wisdom chose to save all who believe by the ‘simple-mindedness’ of the Gospel message. — 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, Phillips

How can we brand the message of the cross as foolishness? Have we done so well with our private lives, with our families, and with our society that we can claim wisdom?

It’s time we abandoned the pretense of being intellectual and recognize that our best minds are baffled by life.

God successfully changes men and women by the message that centers in the cross. We must recognize the disease of sin and claim God’s healing ointment — forgiveness.

Daily, we profit from many helps beyond our understanding. We turn the faucet on seldom thinking of the water source or how it is carried through the pipes. We may not decipher a doctor’s prescription, but we pay a high cost to fill it because we trust our physician.

In the same way we may be unable to fully comprehend the deep significance of the cross, but we can benefit from it because the Bible tells us what Christ accomplished on the cross to give us hope and assurance of eternal life.

The cross is the focal point in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Some think that God didn’t want Christ to die but was forced to adjust His plans to adapt to it. Scripture makes it very clear, however, that the cross was no afterthought with God. Christ was delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23), and Jesus was perfectly obedient.

God designed the cross to defeat Satan, who by deception had obtained squatters’ rights to the title deed of the world. Had Satan not set himself in opposition of God there would have been no need for God to send His Son to the cross, to die for the sins of the world.

When Satan with all of his clever promises separated man from God in the Garden of Eden, he did more than deceive Adam and Eve. In some mysterious manner he began to exert a kind of pseudo-sovereignty over man. In his arrogant violence, Satan unleashed his fiercest attack to halt Christ’s ministry by putting into the hearts of the people to demand His death. But Satan was caught in his own trap; he couldn’t comprehend that God so loved the world that He sent His only son to be the sin-bearer for man’s sin.

So, what happened at the cross? The Bible says:

The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. — 1 John 3:8 NASB

Only God can thwart the plans of Satan.

What a blow was dealt to Satan! Although he is still a wily pretender, his destruction was made certain by the victory of Christ at the cross.

That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. — Hebrews 2:14

What seemed to be the biggest defeat of history turned into the greatest triumph.

God not only overpowered Satan and conquered the cross; Christ rescued those who Satan held captive and reconciled them to Himself. The Bible describes this divine plan:

We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew, for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. — 1 Corinthians 2:7-8

If it were possible for one man, Adam, to lead mankind to ruin, why shouldn’t it be possible for one man to redeem it? The Bible says,

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. — 1 Corinthians 15:22

Excerpted with permission from What Happened at the Cross? by Billy Graham, copyright Billy Graham Literary Foundation.

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Your Turn

The devil thought he had us! He thought he was sly and conquered God. But, God already had a plan… the Cross. Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you about the redemption of Jesus at Calvary! ~ Devotionals Daily