The Cross was Necessary Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Jesus said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
March 2, 2014
Series: Thinking About the Cross-Lesson #1
Title: The Cross was Necessary
Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35
Our text is the twenty-sixth verse of Luke 24: “Wasn't it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his time of glory?" All of us, I believe, might share, to some degree, the attitude of Christ’s disciples who were brokenhearted, because of His death. They loved Him. They knew He had died; there was no doubt about it. But they did not see why His death was necessary. Why did He have to die?
As Christ walked beside two of them, on the road to Emmaus, He said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus then asked them, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? In our study today we will see that the cross was necessary from two points of view, God’s and men.
First, THE CROSS WAS NECESSARY FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW.
It was necessary to reveal God’s opinion of human life, to reveal the very essence of God’s character and to reveal God’s opinion of sin.
In Jesus’ day, human life was cheap. Unwanted children were easily disposed of. In hard times, girl babies were set beside the road and left to die. A slave might be killed by his master and no questions were asked. Tyrants like Nero lighted their gardens with human torches.
Human life is cheap in our day also—suicide bombers and 9/11. This attitude is what makes war possible. It makes poverty, slums, and economic injustice possible. It makes abortion and terrorism possible. Sin is rampant and life is cheap. This is the attitude of a sinful world.
But life is not cheap. In God’s sight life is extremely valuable. The death of His Son on the cross demonstrates His point of view better than anything else recorded in history. Human life is not cheap when God is willing to give His only Son to die to save it. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
When you look at the cross you can see the very essence of God’s character. 1 John 4: says, “God is love.” But what does that mean?
For one thing, love is not a definition of God—God is infinitely more—but God is the definition of love. Without Him, love does not exist. Biblical love, which is sometimes called agape love, is always active, and yet it is selfless. God’s love for us is also God’s pattern for our love for Him and for our love for one another. Agape love is unlike human love, since it does not depend on what we do or how good we are. Its basis is Gods deliberate, active, sacrificial giving of His Son for our redemption.
To be loved by God means that He has set His sights on us and is actively wooing us toward Himself at all times. God’s love is self-starting, indestructible, undeserved, compassionate, constant, immeasurable, voluntary, and a gift. He did not begin loving at the Cross, nor will He love us more tomorrow than He does today. There is nothing we can do, think, or say that will change His love because there are no surprises for God—He knows us totally and loves us anyway. The goal of God’s love is two-fold.
First, to have us with Him throughout eternity; and second, to make us like His Son.
He made the accomplishment of this goal possible through Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross. John wrote in his first epistle, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us…” (1 John 4:10). We didn’t love Him first. God did not give His Son for us because we were attractive, because we were good, or because we promised to do something. God loved us, “while we were yet sinners.” We need to recognize that you and I today are sinners and that “…God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died for us and He loved us when we didn’t love Him.
He made a way for us, if we will accept it. Jesus said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). You either come His way, or you don’t come at all. It is nonsense to think that since God is love, everything will work out all right and everyone will ultimately go to heaven. It is going to work out all right because the lost are going to a lost eternity, and the saved are going to a saved eternity—that’s the reason things are going to work out all right. And they will work out all right for anyone, if they come God’s way—this is tremendously important.
We could never understand God’s character without the cross. Paul tells the Romans, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” The cross reveals God in His limitless love, His boundless mercy, and His pardoning grace. God demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners, something no one else would even consider doing. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary arose out of the heart of God filled with the love of God. The cross reveals God not as a God of vengeance, nor as a tyrannical ruler, nor as a merciless judge, but as a loving Shepherd who followed the trail of suffering and death to find the sheep that was lost. God is a suffering Father who longs for His prodigal son to return from the far country, and receives and forgives him when he turns his steps towards home.
There is yet a third reason why the cross was necessary: it is that it reveals Gods’ estimate of sin. Only as we look at the cross can we realize how awful sin is in God’s sight. Too many, sin is cute, attractive, in good taste; but to God sin is a horrible thing. We call our sins mistakes, weakness, and slips. Even when we use the word, we use it flippantly, and emptied of its real meaning.
Well then, what is sin? It is sin that takes the holy God, who was made flesh for us, and treats Him as no beast should ever be treated. It is sin that takes the sinless Jesus and strips Him, lashes Him, spits on Him, pierces Him with nails, and then laughs at Him.
How bad is sin? Sin is so bad that only the shed blood of the Son of God could do anything about it. Allow me to illustrate this with a story I read.
A pastor was waiting in the hospital with an anxious father whose little girl was in surgery. Presently the surgeon came in and described how the surgery had gone. An incision was made that ran halfway around the girl’s body. One of her ribs had been removed, and a nerve had been deliberately clipped. After the surgeon left, the father turned to his pastor and said, “If it took all that to make her well she must have been terribly sick.” If it took the death of God’s Son to heal it, this world must have been, and still is, terribly sick.
Those are the reasons that the cross was necessary from God’s point of view; now I want you to see why THE CROSS WAS NECESSARY FROM A HUMAN POINT OF VIEW.
Apart from Christ’s death on the cross, we have no salvation; and apart from His sacrifice for our sakes, no hope. The cross is necessary for us. It is the power of God according to Paul, who wrote, “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” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Paul, here, is speaking of the different effects of preaching the gospel: To those who perish it is foolishness, but to those who are saved it is the power of God.
The gospel was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and to the Greeks it was foolishness; but to those who are saved, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. The Jews could not believe, because they had smugness in the belief that their expected Messiah was to be a great worldly prince. And therefore, they would never submit to a deliverer and king, who was so lowly in appearance, and who died such a horrible death.They despised him, and looked upon him as deplorable, because he was hanged on a cross.
He was to the Greeks foolishness. They laughed at the story of a crucified Savior, and despised the apostles’ way of telling it. They sought for wisdom. They were men of intelligence, men that had cultivated arts and sciences. However, there was nothing in the plain doctrine of the cross to suit their taste. They asked, “What hope is there to be saved by one that could not save himself? And how can you trust in one who was condemned and crucified as a criminal, a man of lowly birth and who was poor, and who died in such a horrible way.” The Greeks thought it little better than stupidity to believe such a doctrine, and to pay respect to such a person. Therefore, they were left to perish in their pride and stubbornness.