A friend recently asked, “Why do Christians use the cross as a sign for Jesus.” He went on to say, “The cross is a sign of failure, or weakness. It declares to me failure and death, not triumph or victory.”
I am sure that many have a similar understanding of the undertakings at the time of the cross. I answered him in the following manner.
I said, “You are aware that we honor our bravest military heroes with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Many are awarded this decoration posthumously. That is after they were killed in action while trying to save the lives of their comrades. For their action they were awarded the highest honor than mankind can bestow, the Congressional Medal of Honor. So my friend the cross is not an emblem of inaction, or inability, it is an insignia of sacrifice.”
I went on to say, “The cross declares victory over death, hell, and the grave. The enemy thought the Kingdom of God was finished by the action taken at the cross, when in fact the kingdom of Satan was defeated by the shed blood of Jesus Christ at that slaying. Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins according to the words of Jesus. Jesus gave His blood to defeat the enemy just as a soldier gives his blood to save his buddies. You see friend, just one drop of His blood changed the eternal destiny for all mankind who will apply that sacrifice to their lives. Therefore the cross is a sign of victory for the Christian, not a sign of weakness.”
It is recorded in the Old Testament that God appeared as a human being on several occasions. If Jesus wanted only to heal and teach, He could have simply appeared. But He did more: He became a human. Why? So He could die. To understand Jesus, we need to understand His death. His death is a crucial part of the Gospel and something all Christians should know.
Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He came to give His life, to die, and His death would purchase salvation for others. This was the primary reason He came to earth. His blood was poured out for others (Matthew 26:28).
Jesus warned His disciples that He would suffer and die, but they didn’t seem to believe Him. Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day and be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!’” (Matthew 16:21-22).
Jesus knew that He must die, because the Scriptures said so. “Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?” (Mark 9:12; 9:31; 10:33-34). Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself…. This is what is written: That Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:26-27, 46).
It had all been according to God’s plan: Herod and Pilate did only what God “had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:28). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked if there might be some other way, but there was none (Luke 22:42). His death was necessary for our salvation.
Where was it written? Isaiah 53 is the clearest prophecy. Jesus quoted Isaiah 53:12 when he said: “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37). Jesus, although without sin, was to be counted among sinners. Notice what else is written in Isaiah 53:
What Isaiah wrote, Jesus fulfilled. He laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:15). In His death, he carried our sins and suffered for our transgressions; He was punished so that we might have peace with God. Through His suffering and death, our spiritual illness is healed; we are justified—our sins are taken away.
Paul uses an interesting image of salvation when he writes that Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities” by making “a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). He uses the word for a military parade: the winning general brings captured enemy soldiers in a victory parade at home. They are disarmed, humiliated, put on display. Paul’s point here is that Jesus did this on the cross.
What looked like a shameful death for Jesus was actually a glorious triumph for God’s plan; because it is through the cross that Jesus won victory over enemy powers, including Satan, sin and death. Their claim on us has been fully satisfied in the death of the innocent victim. They cannot demand any more than what he has already paid. They have nothing further to threaten us with.
“By his death,” we are told, Jesus was able to “destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). Victory was won on the cross.
Jesus’ death is also described as a sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice draws on the rich imagery of Old Testament sacrifices. Isaiah 53:10 calls our Savior a “guilt offering.” John the Baptist calls him the Lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Paul calls him a “sacrifice of atonement,” a “sin offering,” a “Passover lamb,” a “fragrant offering” (Romans 3:25; 8:3; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2). Hebrews 10:12 calls him a “sacrifice for sins.” John calls him “the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:2; 4:10).
Yet, a crucified Messiah was unthinkable to the Jews. This was also incomprehensible to the Greeks. Peter had this problem, soon after he had made his amazing statement of faith to Jesus; "You are the Christ (the Messiah).” When Jesus explained what was about to happen to him Peter said, "Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!" and he received a stunning rebuke (Matt 16 v21-23). He was sure that the Messiah was about to come as conquering hero. He was probably also aware of Deuteronomy 21:23, "anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse.”
Why do we use the cross as a symbol of victory? The same reason we use the term, “Remember Pearl Harbor” or “We will not forget 911” and “Remember the Flags of Our Fathers.” These events were scenes of death and destruction for our country. But more importantly they were a springboard for victory for our nation. And so it is with the cross. By the death of Christ on the cross we all win eternal life if we join Him in the battle.
“By his wounds we are healed.” He died to set us free, to remove our sins, to suffer our punishment, to purchase our salvation. Yes, the cross is foolish to some, but to others it is the greatest symbol of victory the world has ever known. And we display it with pride to show that the enemy has been defeated. Jesus died the greatest hero ever known to mankind and in His death He defeated the enemy. This is unheard of. A dead man defeating the enemy? And after He defeated the enemy, while dead, He came back to life and is now building a place for us.
The devil made a big mistake by putting our Lord to death. Satan did not know he was God in the flesh and created everything. Colossians 1:16 says, For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by him and for him. Jesus also said in John 2:19 Destroy this body and I will raise it up. He said in Matthew I have the power to lay my life down and take it up again.
Yes friend, I display the cross with pride to remind the world of the greatest hero of mankind who ever lived. It is not a symbol of weakness but an emblem of victory.
Ron Knott 03/21/200
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