Cross

The revolutionary message of Jesus was not popular with everyone. The powers of evil came against him.  They did not want him to be King.
 
The religious establishment found Jesus disrespectful of their traditions and authority. He 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 a most horrifically painful and degrading means of death, designed by the Romans to send the message to the world: “Don’t mess with us.”

In order to mock ‘King Jesus’ as they put him to death, they placed a crown on his head – a crown of thorns.

 

Cross

 

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

But the New Testament consistently says that something deeper was going on with the death of Jesus. 

It says that Jesus ‘died for our sins’.  Not for his own sins (according to the Bible he was without sin) but 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.’ (Luke 23:34)

 

In one sense, Jesus was praying specifically for those who were responsible for crucifying him. But in a 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 suffering.

As he hung on the cross, Jesus prayed for us to be forgiven. He poured his life into that prayer, quite literally.  He offered his life as a sacrifice to pay the price of sin. Christians call this ‘the Atonement’.

The Apostle John writes:

Here is what love is.  It is not that we loved God.  It is that he loved us  and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

 

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, All You That Pass By, includes these 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.
 
 

Jesus overcame evil with good.  He turned an act of hatred against him into an outpouring of forgiveness towards us.

A major blessing that comes with the kingdom of God is the offer of the forgiveness of sins.  That forgiveness flows from the cross of Jesus. It can bring healing to the most broken of lives.