The Cross is the principal symbol of the Christian religion, recalling the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the redeeming benefits of his Passion and death. The cross is thus a sign both of Christ himself and of the faith of Christians.
However, today the crucifixion is questioned by many people around the world.
The problem with people asking these questions are three-fold:
(1) a diminishing sense of God's holiness;
(2) a diminishing sense of mankind's sinfulness; and
(3) an inordinately increasing sense of self-worth.
In his article "10 Things you should know about the Cross” Patrick Schreiner addresses the cross as follows:
The cross is a Trinitarian event. Since the Christian faith is Trinitarian the cross reveals the Trinity. God the Father sent the Son to save the world, the Son submitted to the Father’s will, and the Spirit applied the work of redemption to Jesus followers.
The cross is the centre of the story of the Scripture. The crucifixion of Jesus was the ending of the Bible and brought the world a solution for sin. The spiral of sin that began in Gen 3, had to be stopped and the death of Jesus terminates the downward spiral. In his body Jesus took on the sin of the world and paid the price of all humanity. Wisdom was found not beyond the cross, not above the cross, not below the cross but in the cross.
The cross redefines power in the kingdom. Jesus’s announcement that the kingdom of God has come is conclusively revealed in the Christ-event on the cross. God gave Adam and Eve the task of ruling and reigning over the earth as his representatives, but they attempted to seize power for themselves. In fact, all their children are still doing the same. Jesus came as the true Son and redefined power by displaying strength through weakness. He did not exploit his power like Adam but emptied himself. He became a servant of all, and thereby was exalted as ruler of all. The cross was not only where our sin was paid for, where the devil was conquered, but where Christianity was shaped.
The cross inaugurates the new covenant. At the Last Supper Jesus interpreted his death as bringing in the new covenant. It is by his body and blood that his new community is formed. Just as the people of Israel were sprinkled with blood as they entered a covenant with Yahweh, so the disciples are members of the new community by the pouring out of Jesus’s blood. The new covenant community now has the Torah written on their hearts and they all know the Lord because of the gift of the Spirit.
The cross conquers sin and death. The cross cancels the record of debt that stood against humanity. On the cross Jesus bore our sins in his body, so that we might have eternal life. Understanding the cross and resurrection as a single event is important here, for it is through the death and resurrection of Christ that death is swallowed up in victory.
The cross vanquishes the devil. On the cross, Christ did not only conquer sin and death, but he conquered the spiritual forces of darkness. A cosmic eruption occurred at Golgotha; a new apocalyptic force entered the world and the old magic was conquered by a deeper magic. He disarmed the power and authorities, putting them to open shame, and triumphs over them on the cross. When Christ rises from the dead he is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power.
The cross is substitutionary. The cross is for us, in our place, on our behalf. He laid down his life for His sheep. He is our sacrificial lamb. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Just as Abraham raised his eyes and looked and saw a ram to offer as a burnt offering in the place of his son, so too we look up and see Jesus as our replacement. He became a curse for us. If the conquering of the spiritual forces is the goal, then substitution is the ground or basis for this conquering. “The cross represents not only the great exchange (substitutionary atonement), but also the great transition (the eschatological turn of the ages).”
The cross is foolishness to the world. Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central focus the suffering and degradation of its God. Paul acknowledged that this message of Christ crucified will be a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles. It is not an inherently attractive message, until spiritual eyes of sight are granted. The world looks at the cross and sees weakness, irrationality, hate, and disgust. In the early decades of the Christian movement the scandal of the cross was most self-evident thing about it. It was not only the death of the Messiah, but the manner of his death that is an offense.
The cross brings peace, reconciliation, and unity. At the cross the whole world has the opportunity to be reconciled to the Father. The peace that the world has been seeking, the unity of all people is found in blood. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14). Reconciliation for the world, peace, shalom, and unity comes only by the blood of the cross. No blood means no harmony.
The cross is the marching order for Christians. After Jesus explained to his disciples that he must suffer, he told them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Paul embodies the cross in his ministry, becoming the fragrance of death as he is lead on the triumphal procession. Paul does not merely apply the cross to his own ministry, he instructs the new community at Philippi to have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) which is defined by Jesus’s humility on the cross (Phil. 2:8). The crucifixion is the touchstone of Christianity.
God thank you for the cross. It reveals your character, your love for lost sinners and your perfect justice. If we want to grow in our love for You, which is the first and greatest commandment, then we must be growing to understand and appreciate the cross, which shows us your great love. If we want to grow in godliness, we must grow in understanding the significance of the cross, which confronts the most prevalent and insidious of all sins, namely, pride.