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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Why the Cross?

Apr 15, 2017

The Easter event is the most important event in human history. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we would all be lost – forever. The love relationship God desired with his creatures was marred by sin and rebellion, and there was nothing we could do to make things right.

So he took the initiative, he sent his Son, he allowed our punishment to fall on him, and he let himself, in some strange way, die on our behalf. But he rose again and all who now come to Christ in repentance and faith can experience new life, and a restored relationship with God.

easter 16There is nothing greater or more important than this. That is why Easter is so utterly important, and that is why we must never trivialise it nor minimise it. It is the turning point of human history. It is indeed the greatest story ever told. With two thousand years of reflection and meditation and writing on this, I have nothing new to add here.

With so much already written on the Cross of Christ and what it has achieved for us, allow me if you will to simply offer a number of stirring and inspiring quotes. They are just a drop in the bucket, and plenty more could be offered here of course.

But taken together they offer us something of what the Easter story is all about, and why the Cross is the lynchpin of human history. Here they are in no particular order:

“If we want proof of God’s love for us, then we must look first at the Cross where God offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.” Jerry Bridges

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.” John Stott

“God undertook the most dramatic rescue operation in cosmic history. He determined to save the human race from self-destruction, and He sent His Son Jesus Christ to salvage and redeem them. The work of man’s redemption was accomplished at the cross.” Billy Graham

“Easter is always the answer to ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!’” Madeleine L’Engle

“As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.” Augustine

“It was Christ who willingly went to the cross, and it was our sins that took him there.” Franklin Graham

“As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both, “I did it, my sins sent him there,” and “He did it, his love took him there.” John Stott

“We believe that the history of the world is but the history of His influence and that the center of the whole universe is the cross of Calvary.” Alexander MacLaren

“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion.” C. S. Lewis

“God turned our greatest evil (sin) into the occasion for our greatest good (salvation); in fact He turned the greatest sin ever—deicide—into the very instrument of our greatest good, ‘Good Friday’.” Peter Kreeft

“The heart of the Christian Gospel with its incarnation and atonement is in the cross and the resurrection. Jesus was born to die.” Billy Graham

“The great event on Calvary . . . is an eternal reminder to a power drunk generation that love is the most durable power in the world, and that it is at bottom the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. Only through achieving this love can you expect to matriculate into the university of eternal life.” Martin Luther

“Jesus has borne the death penalty on our behalf. Behold the wonder! There He hangs upon the cross! This is the greatest sight you will ever see. Son of God and Son of Man, there He hangs, bearing pains unutterable, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Oh, the glory of that sight!” Charles Spurgeon

“Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross.” J. C. Ryle

“Forgiveness is the reason for the crucifixion, and the crucifixion is the reason for the Incarnation.” Peter Kreeft

“All of heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, hell afraid of it, while men are the only ones to ignore its meaning.” Oswald Chambers

“When Jesus died on the cross the mercy of God did not become any greater. It could not become any greater, for it was already infinite. We get the odd notion that God is showing mercy because Jesus died. No – Jesus died because God is showing mercy. It was the mercy of God that gave us Calvary, not Calvary that gave us mercy. If God had not been merciful there would have been no incarnation, no babe in the manger, no man on a cross and no open tomb.” A. W. Tozer

“Let us go to Calvary to learn how we may be forgiven. And then let us linger there to learn how to forgive.” Charles Spurgeon

“The most obscene symbol in human history is the Cross; yet in its ugliness it remains the most eloquent testimony to human dignity.” R. C. Sproul

“Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life.” Ravi Zacharias

“The cross … is the watershed event for the whole of the cosmos, affecting everything after it”. J. Louis Martyn

“Both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the old covenant to the new, from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax – at the cross. Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the cross. Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the cross.” D. A. Carson

“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the medial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.” C. S. Lewis

“God Hold us to that which drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction, and we wanted nothing else.” Amy Carmichael

“Jesus’ death was seen by Jesus himself … as the ultimate means by which God’s kingdom was established. The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven.” N. T. Wright

“In the cross of Christ justice was fully done, its claims were fully met and God’s mercy to sinners triumphed in the provision of a complete forgiveness and a full salvation. . . . Judgment looks at our deserts; mercy at our needs. And God himself looks at the cross of his Son.” John Stott

“The reconciliation of justice with mercy lies in the Cross. God does not balance mercy and justice; He accomplishes both to the full.” J. Budziszewski

Easter rembrandt“Look again at the cross, my friend. Take another survey. Examine it again with greater depth and profundity, and having seen the grace and the mercy and the compassion and the kindness of God, look again and this is what you will see. You will see the righteousness of God. You will see the justice of God and his holiness. It is the place of all places in the universe where these attributes of God can be seen most plainly.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“I wonder maybe if our Lord does not suffer more from our indifference, than He did from the crucifixion.” Fulton J. Sheen

“Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.” John Piper

“Come, and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are your healings, His agonies your repose, His conflicts your conquests, His groans your songs, His pains your ease, His shame your glory, His death your life, His sufferings your salvation.” Matthew Henry

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Apostle Paul

Let me conclude by reminding you of the wonderful painting “The Raising of the Cross”. In it we find Rembrandt crucifying Christ. He sure got the gospel right. Have we done the same? Do we really understand the vital truth that we (you and me) put Christ on the cross? We can never become a true Christian until we personally and profoundly grasp that reality.

[1716 words]

8 Responses to Why the Cross?

  • Thank you Bill for the richness of these quotations. I am presently compiling a book of spiritual quotes from the Masters and I shall add these to mine. Your quotations are particularly meaningful to me as the congregation that I attended on Good Friday did not even read from the Bible an account of the Crucifixion. I left broken-hearted and spiritually famished. You have encouraged me. Thank you once again.
    Andy

  • Many thanks Andy. Blessings.

  • Too many people today are ready and quick off the mark to deny that the crucifixion happened at all, despite the evidence that it did. They seem to have a mental blockage about this period of the past. How many times have we heard “oh but that’s all just fairy stories”, or “we’re a modern society now, we have no need to cling to superstition”…..and yet, people readily accept the existence of dinosaurs, or the Roman civilisation, or the history of Egypt.
    Thankfully God has not blinded all of us in these end-times and we can continue to remember His sacrifice and resurrection as it really happened. A blessed Easter to all.

  • Other than the Carson quote about God’s wrath which. as you know, I say gives completely the wrong impression of the crucifixion – Jesus is God and He was not showing wrath against Himself. The idea is wrong but what I would like to say is that in this world where we contest about the great tribulation and even whether we are called to go through any tribulation, the truly great tribulation and the truly great and terrible day of the Lord was the day the Son of God, the Great I Am, was crucified so that we might live. Nothing compares.

  • The Pivotal point of the Crucifixion was Gethsemane. There Jesus looked into the ‘Cup of Suffering’ and chose to take upon himself not only the vileness of my Sins but those of the whole world also. Only an ALL MIGHTY God could take on that burden. Every fiber of his being revolted against such an act, so much so that he sweated Blood, but he Chose Life and Blessing for us and Death and Cursing for himself. A Sinner am I, saved by Grace!

  • Hi Bill, thank you again for this wonderful inspirational article that you’ve compiled. In my function as an intercessor, whether I’m praying for a national/international Issue or an issue in a local church, whether I’m praying for a person’s mental or physical healing, or whether I’m just praying for a person who desperately wants employment. I’m constantly reminded that our Lord Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for the resolution to all of our issues of life on His way to, or at The Cross. What a wonderful Saviour we serve. As the old song goes; ” We had a debt we couldn’t pay, and He paid a debt that He Didn’t Owe. Bless you Bill, Kel.

  • The most insightful comment on the Cross of Christ that I have heard is (if I remember the persons’ name correctly) by PT Forsyth. “Christ died for God first.” PT Forsyth was brilliant on what it means that God is holy. Herein is the balm of Gilead for the 21st century Christian disease of emotionalism.

  • Thanks Michael. While not seeking to belabour all this, you may be somewhat remiss here in several respects. One, we need to properly grasp the biblical understanding of the Trinity: one godhead made up of three persons. While each person of the Trinity is fully equal to each other in terms of being or nature, there is a relational or functional hierarchy involved. Thus the Father sends the Son (and not the other way around); the Son sends the Spirit, and so on. So one member of the Trinity certainly can perform certain acts on other members of the Trinity, etc.

    All three Persons are God (what theologians refer to as the ontological Trinity), but there are differing operations and roles in creation (the economic Trinity). Thus the Son is baptised by John while the Father speaks from heaven. The Son was crucified while the Father was not. See more on all this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/23/thinking-about-the-trinity/

    As to God’s wrath being poured out, that is exactly what Isaiah 53 and its description of the suffering servant (Jesus) tells us. As verses 4-5 clearly say, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” And passages such as Matthew 27:46 speak of God the Father even forsaking God the Son during the crucifixion.

    And the OT idea of the mercy seat and propitiation (the complete satisfaction of the wrath of God) is fully found in the work of Christ as the NT makes clear (see eg Romans 3:21-26). And the idea of Jesus drinking the cup of God’s wrath also speaks to this. But see more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/09/24/propitiation/

    And here:

    billmuehlenberg.com/2013/08/06/on-drinking-the-cup/

    That has been the standard understanding of these issues, although admittedly much discussion and debate still carries on about such matters. But if it is still not to your liking, we may have to agree to disagree here.

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