Cross

 

Jesus’ message about the Kingdom of God was revolutionary. But it suits some people for things to remain just as they are. This was true of the religious establishment in Jesus’ day. They found him disrespectful of their traditions and authority. He, in turn, was deeply critical of their hypocrisy.

Seeing Jesus as a threat to their position, the religious authorities arranged to have him executed. They persuaded the Romans, who were governing Israel at the time, that Jesus was a dangerous revolutionary. In those days, crucifixion was the punishment set aside for such criminals. It was the most horrifically painful and degrading means of death imaginable, designed by the Romans to send the message to the world: “Don’t mess with us.”

 

Cross

 

So, on the face of it, Jesus died because the religious authorities saw him as a threat and a trouble maker.

But clearly there is something deeper going on with the death of Jesus on the cross.

The New Testament consistently says that Jesus ‘died for our sins’. A major clue to understanding the meaning of the cross lies in the prayer that Jesus prayed as he was dying:
 
‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke23:34)

 

In one sense, Jesus was praying specifically for those who were responsible for crucifying him. But in a wider and deeper sense Jesus was praying for all of us.

All of us have contributed to the sins of the world. Through our anger and apathy and selfishness and greed, we have all added to the sum total of human sin and misery. As he hung on the cross, Jesus prayed for us to be forgiven. And he poured his whole life into that prayer – quite literally. The great power of Jesus’ prayer comes from his suffering love for us, as he endured the penalty for our sin. Christians call this ‘The Atonement’.
 

John’s Gospel tells us that just before he died, Jesus cried out:

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

The meaning is, “It is accomplished”. Jesus knew that his prayer was answered, and that our debt of sin had been paid in full.
 
An 18th century hymn by Charles Wesley includes the lines:
 
He dies to atone for sins not His own;
Your debt He has paid, and your work He has done.
You all may receive the peace He did leave,
Who made intercession, My Father, forgive!
 
For you and for me He prayed on the tree:
The prayer is accepted, the sinner is free.
That sinner am I, who on Jesus rely,
And come for the pardon God cannot deny.
 
 The cross of Jesus is very powerful. It offers a forgiveness that can bring healing to the most broken of lives.