By Tim Mize
If you grew up like I did, going to church regularly, you saw often enough Christians eating the Lord’s Supper. You heard over and over how this is done in memory of the crucifixion of Jesus. It cannot have escaped you how important, how loaded with significance his death is thought to be.
It may have escaped you, though, exactly what makes it so important. What is the significance of Christ being killed on a cross? What is so important about it, so that we have to be reminded so often? Think with me for a moment about just one thing that gives the cross its weighty importance: The cross of Christ declares the sinfulness of the world.
Someone might say, “No such demonstration is necessary, for anybody can see how evil the world is.” One might point to our sliding standards of personal morality, or to the social injustices in the world, where the powerful exploit the weak. One could cite the terrible crimes and atrocities of human history. Just those of modem years seem evidence enough that even our new, progressive world is fraught with evil.
All these things granted, the death of Jesus Christ still stands as the singular and supreme demonstration of the reality of evil in the world. Of course, like these other things, it stands as one other example of how persistent is “man’s inhumanity to man.” More than that, however, it shows how persistent is man’s violence toward God. It was not just hatred toward one man, but hatred toward God that drove the nails into the cross.
This is the great sin of the world the sin against God (Ps. 51:4). Jesus Christ was God’s gift to the world. He was God’s obedient servant. Indeed, he was the Son of God. But how was he received? The world circled him like a pack of wolves, and tore upon him to destroy him.
Think of Jesus as being like a test, to prove the world. God put Jesus in its midst, so that his reality, his work, and his righteousness and love stood uniquely within it. But how did the world respond? It hated Jesus. It attacked and tried to destroy him. The true character of this world is thus proved. In it bums a deep-seated hostility toward its Creator. God could have placed his Son in it at any time and any place; we know that the response would have been the same.
Why, then, would God place his Son in the world, knowing that it would crush him? It was not to test the world that he did so, but to save it. God wants to recover humanity in spite of its evil. This too makes the cross a demonstration of the depth and awfulness of the world’s sins. The world is so bad as to require so drastic an act as this to rescue it, the placing of Jesus Christ in it to die by its hand.
The cross, then, is a mirror for the world. It can see there a true reflection of its ugly, evil self. As we observe that, though, we must remember that “the world” is no mere abstraction. It is made up of individual persons, including you and me. Everyone of us alive this very hour, if we but will, can look at the crucifixion of Jesus and see our very selves reflected there and not in the crucified, but in the crucifiers. We ourselves have shared this same hostility toward God and man, this very evil that nailed Jesus to a cross. Each of us, it is true, in our own way has stood with the mob and cried with it, “Crucify him! crucify him!” (Luke 23:21)
The cross of Jesus, then, stands as a minor for us all. We see there not only the reality of our sin but also its awfulness and ugliness. We see there the desperateness of our condition, so that so terrible and drastic an act has been called for.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: No 19, p. 7
October 7, 1993