Friday, June 30, 2006

Why the Cross?

Phil.2:8 - And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
I Cor.1:18 - For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

The Heavenly Father had told Adam to eat freely of all the trees of the garden - all but one. The Tree of the knowledge of good and evil was strictly forbidden to eat from. This tree obviously represented attempting to be a judge which was, like Lucifer, trying to be God. When Adam ate of that fruit there was no chemical that cursed him with death, no, it was the act of disobedience and rebellion against God and His Word that caused Adam's Spiritual death. Adam's sin fathered a family tree of death which grew with every birth. This sin would find its way inherently and volitionally in every person and with that inheritance came a trust account of Spiritual death to be drawn upon at physical death.
Now in the midst of the gross and complete darkness of this Adamic kingdom comes the Light, the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. His end would be our beginning, His shame our honor, His death our life. But why the cross? Why not a quick and private death which still shed Hid blood for the remission of sins? People were killed in all sorts of ways, why did God choose the cross? There are caverns of revelation treasure in those two wooden beams which were cut from a tree that Jesus Himself created. This wasn't some dead Jew on a cross, and this wasn't an arbitrary form of death. This was God Himself in human form and this was the mode God chose and ordained before the foundation of the world. Why?
THE FIRST TREE: In Genesis Adam partakes of the forbidden tree and he Spiritually dies. Every child of Adam, infected by this first tree, finds Spiritual life again from this last tree, the cross. Born of Adam through the tree of sin, born again in Christ through the tree of life. Two trees. One death, one life.
THE INTERSECT POINT: The cross has one place where both beams intersect and our eyes are naturally drawn to that place. It is there that the Son of God is presented as the Savior. The horizontal beam = the first Adam. The vertical beam = the last Adam. Horizontal = human. Vertical = divine. Horizontal = earthly. Vertical = heavenly. This is the intersect point of all history. It has been a little hazy until now, but after the cross there will be only two lines - a broad one leading to hell and a narrow one leading to heaven. The cross is the only place to intersect and change destination.
THE OUTSTRETCHED HANDS: Just the position of His body on the cross is significant. How many times did Jesus in life stretch out His arms and say, for instance, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden..."?. But here at His death it encapsulates God's heart, "Come let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool". The placement of His arms say, "Whosoever will may come".
THE LIFTING UP: Notice His feet don't touch the earth, He is lifted up between heaven and earth as a mediator between God and man. The only mediator (I Tim.2:5). By His own words, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me" (Jn.12:32). He is not just a man and yet not just God. He is the Son of man and the Son of God. He is suspended between both as the God-man.
THE PUBLIC SPECTACLE: Jesus will be crucified in front of everyone. Even the Romans won't be able to claim He didn't die, they'll have to make up a story about someone stealing the body. This public viewing will showcase the vileness of our sin and will be used by God the Holy Spirit throughout the years to convict millions of their sin personally. As grotesque as this sight was, it still mysteriously screams "I love you" from the very Person on this cross of shame. It isn't enough for God to have His Son brutally murdered, no, He allows Him to be openly mocked so we will know that Jesus knew how depraved we were as we ridiculed our only Hope.
THE SUFFERING: We know about physical pain and suffering, many men had been crucified. But we can never know about Spiritual pain and suffering which is beyond our limited scope of understanding. The depth of sin against the justice of God results in the suffering of the Scapegoat. Like the physical healing of the man in Mark 2 reveals His ability to forgive sins, His physical suffering reveals His Spiritual suffering as well. And just to let the Heavenly City remember how eternal His suffering on the cross was, He takes His wounds into His glorified body.
THE WOODEN ALTAR: In Genesis Abraham hears God's voice tell him to sacrifice Isaac and he takes his son and lays him on an altar of wood before God stops him and Isaac is spared. Now this cross becomes an altar of wood on which God offers His Son and there is no sparing. A vertical altar of sacrifice, magnificent and bloody, on which Abraham's ram is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, plucked from the thicket of this cursed earth. Now the ram had horns from which the priests made shofars, the horn which called God's people to worship. As we look on this Messianic Ram let us hear God's call to worship. At this cross we are on holy ground and it should move us to brokenness, repentance, and sometimes tears of love..
THE EXALTATION: Another reason for the cross is the exaltation of God's Son, even in death. which confounds the wise and gives life to the humble. He is symbolically lifted up to be praised and worshiped as He suffers and dies voluntarily and sacrificially for every son of Adam. How many of us once knew about Jesus dying on the cross as religious folklore, but one glorious day(!!!) the Holy Spirit revealed to us what that cross really meant and our knees buckled as we fell in adoration to worship this mutilated and bloody Lion of Judah who bled, suffered, and died in my place! Oh halleluiah, I found what I didn't even know I was looking for when by faith I knelt at this wonderful horror. To say I didn't deserve it is an infinite understatement!!!
THE CONTRAST: As we see the Lamb upon he cross it offers a visual and real contrast to the tomb. The cross was full - the tomb was empty. It begs the question, Where did He go?. We saw Him in all His incredible suffering, it was open for all to see. The Romans, the Jews, the unbelievers, His mother, John, the two thieves, and anyone else who wished to pass by saw the cross was full with Jesus. The Romans, the Jews, His mother, John, and anyone else could now visit the empty tomb. They saw the cross, they see the tomb. The contrast must be reconciled in everyone's heart, something happened - what?
THE DOORPOSTS: In Exodus God told His people to slay the passover lamb and apply the blood to the wooden doorposts and the Death Angel would pass over their house. Upon the wooden doorposts of this cross would be the blood of God's own Passover Lamb by which the angel of the second death would pass over all covered in this blood. The cross represents the bloody doorposts of Egypt and the Door itself bled in the middle of the beams. Wow, there is so much intertwined truth in all this that only the Holy Spirit Himself can lead us into it and make us not only understand the symbolism, but apply it to our hearts making it part of our worship.
THE WARNING: In Deuteronomy God instructs the hanging of men from a tree as a warning to everyone of the judgment of breaking the law. The cross in two tributaries of one great river both offers and warns people simultaneously. It screams REDEMPTION and JUDGMENT. The cross warns unbelievers that this is what they face without this cross being theirs. It is either Christ judged or you. There have been times when a hand grenade has been tossed into a crowd and a brave soldier dove upon it to die as he saves others. The cross warns there is the wrath of God coming, and only Jesus has placed His own body in the path of His Father's wrath, for us. The cross says me. We may never know until the Great White Throne judgment how much our King took in our place.
THE ROD: As Moses and the children of Israel came to the Red Sea the chariots of Pharaoh were quickly approaching. Death was overtaking them when God told Moses "lift thou up thy rod" and stretch it out over the Red Sea and the waters parted and they escaped death on dry land. The wooden rod that parts the sea of sin and provides the eternal escape from death. God holds out the wooden Rod of His cross, parts the sea which leads from eternal damnation to eternal life, and He beckons "walk through by faith".
THE WOODEN ARK OF NOAH: As the people ridiculed Noah as he built the wooden ark God had told him to they could not imagine the judgment that was coming. Why? Some believe it had never rained before so the people had no reference point, but ultimately they did not believe the Word of God. Noah preached for one hundred years with no converts, no seekers, and no baptisms. With no church members who financed the building program? God. The same God who provided the wooden ark of His cross that provided shelter to whosoever will. Judgment is coming no matter if we believe the Word of God or not and the only shelter is the cross. We better make sure we are in God's Ark, completely sealed and safe from the eternal flood of God's wrath, and not some pleasure craft of our own making.
THE MIRACLE OF ELISHA: Elisha had prophesied that a certain woman would conceive a son and she did. But after the child was grown he died and the woman went back to Elisha begging him to do something. Elisha went into the dead child and stretched himself upon the child and the child came to life. When the Son of God stretched Himself upon the cross He made an offering for everyone to come back to life. We were all once dead in trespasses and sins, but after we came to Christ He stretched Himself upon us and we came back to life.
THE AX HEAD: As the sons of the prophets were cutting down trees the ax head came off and sunk into a pool of water. They asked Elisha to help them especially because the ax head was borrowed. Elisha took a stick and threw it into the water and the ax head floated to the surface. Now we were drowning in the borrowed ax head of Adam's sin when God in His mercy placed a wooden cross in the midst of this world. And all who trust in this Holy "stick" will see the ax head of their lives come to the surface, plucked from this world of sin, and restored to become a servant of the Most High.
THE MANGER: God came into this world placed in a wooden manger and He left placed on a wooden cross. Remember He made everything at His birth, the manger, the straw, the animals, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, Jesus made them all Himself. He made everything at His death, the cross, the nails, the soldiers, His mother, John, the hill, Jesus made them all Himself. So next time you read about the wooden manger, see the wooden cross. That is why He came anyway.
THE BRAZEN SERPENT: Jesus said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up". The bronze serpent represented God's judgment, and all the children of Israel had to do was look and live. This symbolism is obvious. Jesus is lifted up on the cross, takes the judgment of God, and now anyone can, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved". That serpent, the Devil, has stung everyone with his poison but his judgment is sealed also on the cross. Jesus said, "...the prince of this world is judged".

There are many more symbolic representations of the cross of Christ that not only edify but teach and I suppose it would take a lifetime to exhaust them all. These are some that God renewed to me and I share them with you. In March of 1975 I don't recall how many of these I knew then, but I suddenly became aware that the cross provided a door for me that I could not provide for myself. By the grace of God the Holy Spirit quickened my understanding and I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. I did not even consider what God could do for me here, I just knew that following Him by faith meant I "would not perish but have eternal life". The honest truth before God is that when I became a believer in 1975 I could have cared less about the things of this world, I only cared about following Him. Thirty years later, after traveling along with the Church of the You Can Have it All with Jesus on the Side, I am trying to return totally to my first love. There is a place in Jesus, shadowed by the Father's wings, that remove the cares of this present world. It is a place of worship and prayer, guided and strengthened by His Word, that transcends and transfigures. To bow your head and meditate on the coming of God Himself and giving His life for you so you might have His life forever, what else matters? It is the Magnificent City of Refuge whose builder and maker is God and to which I continue to walk toward by faith. If you have already gotten there, pray for me.

Hold high His cross!


Mike Ratliff said...

Thanks Rick. That battle to tear away from the humanistic version of Christianity to the real deal by shouldering our own crosses and following Jesus is quite a journey. Those who, by the grace of God, are in this journey (notice I did not say have completed the journey) have much in common and we need each other to share what God teaches us on the narrow path, the way of the cross, with each other thereby encouraging and stengthening one another.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

JT333 said...

Thanks for pulling the scarlet thread through God's Word to lift high the cross. We are fellow sojourners seeking the heart of One Savior... What an incredible journey!

carla said...

How about another scarlet thread and some more wood...this is what I learned today from Numbers 19...

-the unblemished red heifer(the first perfect Adam was made out of the red earth, sinned, and brought us all death, but the second Adam was perfect, shed red blood and brought us all life)

- the priest was not to slaughter the heifer, it shall be slaughtered outside the camp(the High Priest that watched as Jesus was taken outside the walls of Jerusalem and slaughtered)

-it shall be burned in his sight(Jesus took our punishment)

-and the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet material and cast it into the midst of the burning heifer...
(this parallels Jesus...the wooden cross, the application of blood, the scarlet thread throught the Bible...)