These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.
So far, we have looked at some initial facts about the cross:
- It’s central importance (to Christ, the apostles and the universal church).
- Its deliberate character (the wickedness of man and the purposes of God).
An Initial Construction:
- Christ died for us: being necessary and voluntary, for our sake, not his own.
- Christ died for us that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18): reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness, deliverance.
- Christ died for our sins: the death of Jesus and our sins are related to each other.
- Christ died our death: not only the consequences but the penalty of death. Since the wages of sin in death (Romans 3:23). The Bible views death not as a natural event but a penal event. Jesus came voluntarily to this world to go to the cross.
The last three scenes (the last 24 hours) of the Passion Week: Upper Room, Garden and Golgotha. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he was not looking back at a mission he had completed, he was looking forward to a mission he was about to fulfill.
Last Supper and Upper Room:
There was no servant in attendance and the disciples were unwilling to humble themselves enough to undertake the menial task of washing feet. Jesus then has the Last Supper with the twelve. He was teaching a couple lessons:
- The centrality of his death: the bread and the cup represented his body and blood. It was by his death that he wished to be remembered.
- The purpose of his death: the cup referred not only to his blood but to a new covenant associated with his shed blood, securing our promised forgiveness.
- The need to appropriate his death personally: it was not enough for the bread to be broken and the cup to be poured out, but they had to eat and drink it. So, it was not enough for him to die, they had to appropriate (or take possession of) the benefits of his death personally.
Which sacrifice did Christ mean?
- The Mt. Sinai sacrifice at the Covenant Renewal of Exodus 24?
- The Passover in Exodus 12? According to the synoptic gospels, the Last Supper was celebrating the Passover meal which followed the Passover sacrifice.
- Jesus spoke of him being the sacrifice, the lamb being slain in the place of the person, blood was sprinkled on the door posts, and the sacrifice was eaten in a fellowship meal.
The Agony of the Garden of Gethsemane:
Prayer was for himself (that he would glorify the Father), then for them (kept in the truth, holiness, mission and unity), and also for subsequent generations to believe them and their message.
- Luke mentions a “baptism” to undergo and he felt stressed, even tormented (Matthew 26:36-46), Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-64).
- John records that his heart was troubled, or even agitated, even though he does not mention the praying scene about the cup being removed (only the High Priestly prayer in John 17, then right into the betrayal and arrest). Why? Jesus knows the cup will not be taken from him.
- Jesus emerges with resolute confidence in the mission.
- The agony of the garden opens a window to the greater agony of the cross.
The Cry of Declaration on the Cross:
Isaiah 53:5-6 is the great passage on the suffering of Christ. Further passages on the sacrifice:
- The Lamb taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
- The Son came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
- The sacrifice to take away sins of many people (Hebrews 9:28).
- He bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).
- He died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).
- God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).
Sayings from the Cross: My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?
- Some suggest a cry of anger, unbelief or despair, only imagining he was forsaken: Seems this explanation make Jesus guilty of unbelief, or accusing him of being a failure.
- Others suggest a cry of loneliness: this assumes the feeling of loneliness rather than being alone, like the dark night of the soul.
- Perhaps a cry of victory: Psalm 22 turns toward a victory and triumph, so why quote the beginning of the Psalm when he referred to the end?
- The reality cry of dereliction: while he was forsaken of men, he was not alone, the Father is with me (John 16:32).
- John Calvin said, “if Christ has died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual… Unless his soul shared in the punishment, he would have been the redeemer of bodies alone.”
- Where is the Trinity in the midst of this declaration?
Conclusion: the cross enforces three truths.
- Our sin must be extremely horrible: we cannot face the cross with integrity and not feel ashamed of ourselves.
- God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension: why not let us reap what we have sown?
- Christ’s salvation must be a free gift: he purchased our salvation at the high price of his blood.