One year at Easter a pastor friend of mine showed a clip from, “The Passion of the Christ,” which is a very graphic movie portraying the crucifixion of Jesus. The scene depicted the Roman soldiers nailing Jesus to the cross. As the clip was being played a woman, who was a board member, got up, grabbed her husband by the arm, and stormed out of the church.
As she left she said, “I can’t believe he would show a rated R movie in the sanctuary!” Later, she told the pastor that the bloody images portrayed in the movie offended her and that she hated to be reminded of Jesus’ death. — This story sincerely breaks my heart; I feel sorry for that lady. She needs to know, as do we all, that the real scene at Calvary was much worse than any movie could ever depict.
Because we don’t fully understand why God selected the cross, our natural inclination is to view it as a scandal: a made up story with no real implications for our lives. Paul teaches that there’s a divine mystery associated with the cross that can’t be discerned with human wisdom. In fact, scripture teaches that when we add human wisdom to the message of the cross it loses its power (1 Cor. 1:17-31).
Let’s face it, the cross is offensive to the world. The crucifixion of Jesus is absurd to our depraved minds; our pride blinds us to God’s truth. Yet in all of humanity’s achievements, in all our intellectual pursuits, in all our philosophies and enlightenment, we still haven’t found a way to God that doesn’t include the cross.
Anyone who comes to Jesus must come by way of the cross. The cross is the starting point for anyone who will believe. No one will ever enter Heaven, stand in the presence of God, and say they arrived by his or her own works. We will only get to Heaven by faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. — Beyond that, no one will ever obtain victory in this life without a willingness to continually come to the cross and bear it.
THE CROSS WORKS AND NOTHING ELSE DOES.
The idea of the cross being “offensive” may sound strange to us. We have adorned our living spaces with the cross; it’s displayed as artwork in our homes and offices. We have beautiful crosses in the stained-glass windows of our churches. We wear crosses around our necks as pieces of jewelry. We don’t think of it as an offense; we think of it as a logo or a brand.
However, in its original context, it was a place where the vilest of criminals were put to death. The imagery that comes to mind when we think of the cross is a far cry from the images it would’ve conjured in first century Palestine. An electric chair or a gas chamber would invoke the same feelings for us today as the cross did for early Palestinian culture.
Interestingly, I’ve learned that I can preach on almost any other topic (except maybe tithing), and as long as I present it in a positive manner it’ll likely not bother anyone. Yet when we come to the heart of Christianity – which is the blood of Jesus shed on the cross at Calvary – people get uneasy and oftentimes offended.
People don’t like to hear about blood… Well, unless they’re watching their favorite TV show (e.g. Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, etc.), or playing video games where they’re rewarded for “finishing people off,” or scrolling the Internet, or watching the news, or engaging a variety of other activities that include killing and violence. Let’s be honest, our society has embraced a culture of death. We’re desensitized and even entertained by blood and gore. Bloody images don’t faze us… Again, unless we’re talking about the cross; when we start talking about the blood of Jesus people get weird.
Why is that?
Because it’s the Gospel: the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). And every evil force in the universe will fight against someone being exposed to it. The message of the cross is: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The cross forces us to admit that we are sinners and that without Jesus we have no hope.
The Bible teaches in John 3:19, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” People don’t naturally want to admit that they’re sinners. We don’t want the light of the cross shining into the dark corners of our soul.
The light of the cross penetrates our pride, idolatry, bigotry, racism, lust, adultery, greed, vanity, gossip, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. You know, those places that we don’t like to talk about. Those places that we don’t allow anyone else to go, not our spouse, not our best friend… no one. The light of the cross exposes those places. Therefore, the cross becomes a “stumbling block,” it becomes “folly,” as the Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians chapter one.
God could have chosen to offer redemption by any means, but in His wisdom, He chose the cross. He chose the shed the blood of His own Son. Don’t let the “foolishness” the world imposes on the cross keep you from the cross. Don’t lose your soul because the cross insults you. Learn to look upon the cross with gratitude and humility for the price that Jesus paid for your redemption.
Our daughter, Kacey, has a blood disorder called, Beta Thalassemia Major. In short, that means her blood doesn’t produce hemoglobin, which means the oxygen in her blood becomes depleted after several weeks. For her to live, every six weeks for the rest of her life, she has to receive a blood transfusion.
So, every six weeks we drive to Peoria, IL or Memphis, TN to St. Jude Children’s Hospital for her to receive two units of blood. It’s a sacrifice to make that drive; it’s an inconvenience. However, for our daughter to live we have to make the sacrifice. She would literally die without new blood. So, we do it with joy and gratitude. I often shed tears of thankfulness as Kacey sleeps in the passenger’s seat while making the five-hour journey.
After her blood transfusions, her energy level heightens. She comes to life; she has a new skip in her step. Why? Because there’s life in the blood! In the same way, God has made the greatest sacrifice of all so we can know Him and discover power for living through the blood of Jesus.
The cross works and nothing else does.
I’d like to remind you that Jesus didn’t stay on the cross. He isn’t on the cross anymore. He died to give us life, but He lives to give us hope. And if you want to live with Him you’ll have to die with Him.
To come to the cross means you have to repent of your sins. Repentance means that you are willing to “change your mind” about your life. It means being willing to admit that you’re a sinner, and by faith, receive Christ as your Savior. It means that you’re willing to lay down your life and enter into a relationship with Jesus.
I’m convinced that many people want to do better. They try really hard, but they can’t. They do good deeds to feel better about themselves. They may even go to church or participate in some organized social effort to promote justice and equality. Yet none of this has the power to change a person’s heart. Apart from Jesus, it’s not in us to do good because we’re sinners and have no way of overcoming sin on our own.
There are also many Christians who live constantly defeated because they’ve stopped coming to the cross. Their reputation has become so “pious” that they’re now embarrassed to confess their faults or kneel in prayer. They don’t want people to think poorly of them, so they bear their burdens alone. I’d like to remind you, the Bible teaches us to, “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). The cross is always there and it always works.
The cross works and nothing else does.