Good Friday Christ's Cross: ‘Of First Importance‘
On some points of doctrine, honest Christians honestly disagree. On one point, however, all do agree: The cross lies at the very heart of the Christian message.
Jesus’ crucifixion is the central demonstration of God’s love. The four gospel writers uniformly present our Savior’s death as the climax of his entire ministry on earth, the final goal of his mission. To downplay the significance of the cross, therefore, even to the slightest degree, is to strip the Gospel of its comfort and challenge.
Given the vital role the cross plays in Christian theology and devotion, how fitting that these ten simple words stand at the very center of the Apostles Creed: “…he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried.” Repeating them together every Sunday morning in worship and witness, Christians reaffirm their conviction that the death of God’s Son, while in one sense horrific, vile, and repulsive, in another sense is starkly beautiful, and magnetic in its power to attract desperate sinners. They declare that their Savior’s suffering and death has paid completely (their) sin’s heavy debt, and restored peace between God and humanity.
But what mind can comprehend all that was transacted between heaven and earth so many years ago on that Friday Christians now call “Good?” Who can take in the full significance of what took place when the heavens grew ominously dark as heaven’s greatest treasure, God’s beloved Son, was being spat upon and mocked, strung up and left to die by an entire human race—all of us together—which was bent on putting him to death?
The crucifixion of Jesus is an event to be studied and a doctrine to be explored, yes. For in that epic event is buried a vein of priceless truths to be mined and examined by the finest human intellects. Correct thinking about the crucifixion honors God, nourishes believers, and presents credible witness to unbelievers. So yes, Christians must continue to give their best efforts to thinking about the crucifixion.
Even more important than thinking about the cross, however, is the act of adoring of the One who once was nailed upon it. He’s a Beautiful Savior; and his face, though once more marred and beaten than anyone’s, still carries on it a look of inviting love. His once-for-all sacrifice calls for our heart’s adoration and worship. Martin Luther is correct: “Whoever thinks about Christ’s death without feeling moved must be made out of stone.”
How easy to pass by Golgotha too quickly. How foolish—no, how perverse—to assume that we’re well enough acquainted, thank you, with what we need to know and believe about Jesus’ death. Truth to tell, never—simply never—shall we be capable of comprehending the entire breadth and height and length and depth of the Gospel mystery that the very Son of God surrendered his life to reconcile sinful humanity with God again.
So Good Friday is for pausing—and for kneeling. It’s a day for beholding the radiant preciousness of our Savior lifted up on a cross, his lifeblood dripping from his nail-pierced hands and feet. This holy day beckons believers and unbelievers alike—“all who pass by”—to open their hearts to him in humble trust, and to worship him. It bids them, in hushed wonder and awe, to whisper unceasing thanks and praise to the to the One who, in Paul’s memorable words, “loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20).
Meditating Jesus’ Cross ought to prompt us who believe toward two natural, necessary responses:
1. We must plead for our Savior’s mercy, and cling to him.
Though evil seemed to win the day when Jesus was killed, the reverse actually happened. His dying overcame death. In Luther’s words, the Son of God “stabbed the devil’s stomach.” Given this astonishing reversal, what then to do? Says Luther: “We must remain in him. Then we will be able to tear right through death and the devil. ….[So] cling to Christ’s neck. Hold on to his clothes. This means believing that Jesus became a man and suffered for you. Make the sign of the cross and say, ‘I am a Christian and I will prevail.’ Death won’t prevail... if we remain in the faith and cling to the destroyer of death, Jesus Christ.”
2. We must offer God our entire lives in holy, grateful response.
Calvary’s cross is the foundation on which our entire salvation rests. Calvary’s hill must now become our pulpit from which to proclaim our Savior’s love, our stage on which to perform to the Triune God’s honor and delight.
“My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With power upon my heart
(Keith Getty & Stuart Townend)
“We are strangely moved when we stand at Calvary. The old spiritual says it well: ‘Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.’ It is a saving, substituting, sufficient death. Hallelujah, what a Savior!” (Gardner Taylor)
“Those who stand by the cross of Christ are those who change the course of history.” (Billy Graham)