These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.
I shared the description of the painting by Holman Hunt, called “The Shadow of Death.” P. 17
Imagine a stranger to Christianity visiting a local church meeting: (London Cathedral)
- Shape of the building
- A cross dominates the ceiling dome
- Huge golden cross on the table in front
- The crypts of famous men below have the symbol
- A man beside the guest is wearing a cross of gold
- Stained glass windows
- The processional
- The hymns – when I survey the wondrous cross, lyrics… Is language exaggerated?
- Prayer and the sign of the cross
Symbols of Faith, Theology or Philosophy:
- Lotus flower
- Star of David – hexagram formed by combining equilateral triangles
- Crescent moon
- Hammer and sickle
Other Christian Symbols that Did Not Catch on:
- Peacock – symbol of immortality
- Dove Descending
- Athlete’s victory wreath
- Fish – Ixthus – “Jesus Christ God Son Savior”
- The manger
- Carpenter’s tool or bench
- The rolled away stone, an empty tomb
- A throne
Tertullian in his The Apostolic Tradition (around AD 215) claims to record only the forms and models of rites already traditional and customs already established.
Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, quote on p. 22.
Constantine, and the symbol – p. 23, with the Battle of Milvian Bridge, saw a sign in the sky and heard the words, in hoc signo vinces (with this sign conquer).
The Horror of the Cross:
- How crucifixion was regarded in the ancient world – p. 23. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23)
- Invented by the barbarians at the edge of the known world.
- Regarding Romans: to bind was a crime, to flog was an abomination, to kill was murder, to crucify was… they did not have a word to describe such a horrible deed.
- Regarding Jews: it was a curse (Deuteronomy 21:23)
- The first surviving picture of the crucifixion is a caricature, a crude drawing of a man stretched out on the cross, with the head of a donkey. To the left is another man with arms raised in worship, and written under it, “Alexamenos cebete Theon” (Alexander worships God). It is in the Kircherian Museum in Rome.
The Perspective of Jesus:
- At the age of 12, being about my Father’s business (Luke 2:41-50). He knew his mission.
- Mark indicates Jesus taught clearly
- The Messianic secret (Mark 8:29-30)
- Then he spoke plainly about this (Mark 8:31-32) Openly, plainly, there was no secret.
- Mark indicates they did not understand and were afraid to ask (Mark 9:31), even filled with grief (Mark 9:30-32, Matthew 17:22-23)
- Luke adds that everything was written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled (Luke 18:31-34)
- Son of Man – two Old Testament Messianic figures: Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and the reigning Son of Man in Daniel 7.
- The imperative, must be fulfilled, Scripture is infallible (will come to pass)
- Other references to his death prediction: Mark 9:9-13, 10:35-45; and six more during his final week
- After centuries of national rejection of God’s message there will be judgment
- On Tuesday he would be handed over
- The perfume in Bethany
- The upper room affirmation this is all in the Scripture to be fulfilled
- Communion as symbols of his death
- In the Garden, affirming the Scripture will be fulfilled
- How did Jesus know he would die?
- Hostility of the Jewish leaders
- Jewish and Herodian plot (Mark 3:6)
- Exposition of Isaiah 61 (Luke 4:16-30)
- Fulfillment of Scripture (Mark 14:21, Luke 24:25-27, 44-47)
- The falling away – Zechariah 13:7, Matthew 26:31, Mark 14:27
- Then the seven words from the cross (Psalm 22:1, 69:21, 31:5,
- The clearest forecast of his sufferings (Isaiah 53)
- Hostility of the Jewish leaders
The Isaiah 53 Emphasis:
- Paul, Peter, Matthew, Luke and John quote 8 of the chapter’s 12 verses.
- We learn the vocation of the Messiah, that he must suffer, be rejected and die.
- While he must die, he was not a helpless victim, he embraced his purpose.
- His teaching, example, works, compassion, power, were never central to his mission, p. 32.
The Death of Christ was Attributed to Human Wickedness but also to Divine Purpose:
- According to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
- Instead of hushing the shameful event, they deliberately drew people’s attention to it. It was the curse which he was bearing for us (Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24).
- Their message was “You killed him, God raised him, we are witnesses (Acts 2:23-24, 3:15, 4:10, 5:30, 10:39-40, 13:28-30)
- They defined Christianity as the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, 11:26, Romans 6:3)
- Sacrifice and atonement (Romans 3:21-25) justified and reconciled through his death (Romans 5:9-10)
Other Books of the Bible:
- John’s emphasis was on the incarnation, to combat a growing heresy.
- Hebrews sees Jesus as the great high priest, emphasizing the sacrificial ministry of Jesus.
- The Revelation sees Jesus as the Lamb, a title used 28 times.
- Where faith sees glory in the cross, unbelief see disgrace.
- Wisdom verses wisdom.
- Islam and the cross:
- Inappropriate for God’s prophet to suffer such disgrace, the Koran needs no sin-bearing Savior.
- It declares five times that no soul can bear another’s burden.
- After denying the need for the cross, it goes on to deny the fact of the cross.
- They did not kill him or crucify him, but they thought he did, reference on p. 41.
- God cast a spell on the enemies and they did not see it was Judas or Simon of Cyrene on the cross, substituted at the last moment.
- Hindus accept his historicity but reject the saving significance of the cross.
- Friedrich Nietzche, died in 1900, saw the cross as weakness, influenced by Darwin’s survival of the fittest.
- Justin Martyr wrote that wherever he looked, he saw the cross: ships sailing at sea, a plow and yoke, tools that resemble the shape, a spade and its handle…