Why the Cross Matters

By Chris Tomlinson:

Is it possible to talk too much about the cross?

I ask this question only because some preachers and writers and teachers seem to talk about the cross a lot.  Some do so almost continually.  We can understand why they might carry on in this way because we know the primacy and weight of Calvary.  But there are still times this thought crosses many of our minds:  “Great, so I understand the cross is important.  But can’t we move on to the next topic?”

We say this sort of thing when we feel our faith is about more than Jesus.  And in one sense, we can say this is true.  Our faith is about God’s glory, and our joy, and loving others, and meeting the needs of the oppressed, and being made holy, and sojourning through life, and laying up treasures in heaven, and all sorts of other things.  In this way, we are saying the expression of our faith is about many things.

But in another sense, the entirety of our faith is about Jesus. God’s grand, redemptive story begins with a foretelling of the coming Seed.  His chosen servants foreshadow His mission.  His prophets herald His arrival.  As history progresses onward, we begin to see the entirety of God’s revelation to humanity as pointing towards the advent of the Messiah.  This is perhaps why Paul says, “All the promises of God find their Yes in Him” (2 Cor 1:20).  In this second kind of way, we are saying the purpose of our faith is about one thing:  Jesus.

So when we find the purpose of our faith is about Jesus, we have to ask ourselves the question:  why is this so?  What is it about the person of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, the work of Jesus, which makes Him the reason for our faith?  And this is what leads us to the cross.

Here’s why the cross matters It is at the cross that we see God most clearly.If history were the vastness of space, the cross would be its brightest star.  We see the fullness of God’s being most clearly at the cross.  We see the fullness of His active purposes most clearly at the cross.

At the cross

…We see God’s sovereignty—reigning with absolute control over humanity’s greatest sin.

…We see God’s purpose—making known the mystery of His will prepared before time.

…We see God’s plan—to unite all things, on heaven and on earth, in Him.

…We see God’s judgment—requiring recompense for guilt.

…We see God’s holiness—demanding the perfect sacrifice.

…We see God’s power—crushing the Son of God according to the purpose of His will.

…We see God’s wrath—punishing the wretchedness of sin.

…We see God’s sorrow—wailing as only a forsaken son can.

…We see God’s mystery—the Son, as God, separated from the Father, committing His Spirit to God.

…We see God’s compassion—pleading to the Father to forgive the ignorant.

…We see God’s gift—His one and only Son, bruised and broken on our behalf.

…We see God’s mercy—making unrighteous sinners righteous.

…We see God’s love—Christ dying for sinners.

…We see God’s rescue operation—delivering us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.

…We see God’s proposal—pledging Himself to His bride forever.

…We see God’s revelation—the Word of God speaking His last so He might speak on behalf of many.

…We see God’s victory—disarming His enemies, putting them to shame, and triumphing over them.

…We see God’s glory—the name of the Father being magnified for the sake of all peoples.

But seeing God most clearly is not an end to itself. If it were, then the point of all history would be our own clarity of sight.  But that is not history’s purpose.  Everything exists for Jesus, so that in everything He might be preeminent.  We study the Scriptures to know more of God.  We look forward with great hope to the day we will see Him face to face.  But in the here and now, we know God most fully when we look upon the person and work of Jesus on the cross.

It is only when we behold the Son of God most clearly that we can magnify Him most fully, acknowledging His preeminence in all things, which reflects more brightly the reality of His glory.  This is why one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, because on that day, all will see Him as He is, either toward our greatest joy or our greatest sorrow.

So if you preach and teach about the cross, remember that we, as your people, need the lens of your preaching to continually focus our hearts on the crucified Son of God.  And if we hear or read about the cross and wonder what is next, that we’re ready to move beyond it, let us remember that the cross matters for our yesterday, and our today, and our tomorrow.

And let us always hold the best of our hearts, the fullness of our hearts, for the One whose scars will testify for eternity to the glory and horror of that day that made possible the one day we will enjoy with Him forever.

Chris Tomlinson, a graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the UCLA Anderson School of Business, is a businessman and writer who desires to see people realize the beauty and joy of knowing Jesus. The author of “Crave: Wanting So Much More of God,” Tomlinson also blogs regularly at Crave Something More.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

5 thoughts on “Why the Cross Matters

  1. The danger however comes from isolating the Cross out from the rest of the gospel. He did indeed die, but He also was raised from the dead and the Bible says; “If Christ be not raised then our faith is in VAIN”. He not only was raised from the dead but He ascended on high and was “crowned with glory and honour”.

    Tomlin says; “It is only when we behold the Son of God most clearly that we can magnify Him most fully” – and the issue is where do we behold Him?

    Because He isn’t still hanging broken on a Cross. He is seated and ruling and reigning at the right hand of God fully alive and fully governing the universe!

    I for one would rather talk about the work that Christ accomplished on the Cross (triumphing over principalities and powers, taking our sin upon Himself etc) rather than talking about two planks of wood.

    • You’re right Dan. It is not less than this, however, but it is so much more, I agree! Adrian Warnock brings this out in his book on the resurrection.
      Here’s something I’ve been thinking about recently. Is there a functional difference in the way we relate to the cross and the resurrection? If so, does that account for the emphasis the bible and evangelicals place on the cross? Is the way of the cross (cross-centred living) something I am responsible to pursue, and is, however it functions (by way of empowerment), resurrection something I look to God to perform? The former, then, becomes the object of discipleship, and the latter the outcome. Would value your thoughts.

    • Peter, thanks for posting. I found my way here through a trackback.

      Dan, thanks for your comments, and I think you’re spot on. When I write, “We see the fullness of God’s being most clearly at the cross. We see the fullness of His active purposes most clearly at the cross,” I do mean, as you say, the work that Christ accomplished for us there. It’s not about the planks of wood; it’s about the work Jesus did on our behalf.

      I received a question on the original post about the emphasis of the cross relative to the resurrection. I’ve added a more thorough response to a comment by Jessie at the following site: http://cravesomethingmore.org/2010/02/15/why-the-cross-matters-most/. It may help explain these thoughts more clearly.

      Thanks again!

      • ….. for your enjoyment…….

        Easter Sunday
        St. George
        12th April 2009

        The sadness and weeping,
        Hopes dashed, faith fleeting:
        We thought he would redeem Israel
        But He lay still and pale.
        The women went to anoint our Messiah
        ‘He’s gone’ they said, so we ran to enquire
        Whether they were mistaken
        Or the body had been taken.
        We found the tomb was empty,
        Found the wrappings but no reality.
        The angelic being said, “He’s not here
        He has risen like He said, do not fear”.
        Mary weeping with love and grief
        Spoke to the Gardener she thought a thief.
        “Have they taken Him, where does He lie?”
        “Mary”, said Jesus. ‘Master’ was her reply.
        Some thought these stories a wishful tale
        Just female testimony or too much ale?
        But He appeared to us behind a locked door,
        Gave us His ‘peace’ and commissioned us for
        Offering forgiveness. But Thomas doubted
        Until Jesus came again, ‘My Lord and God’ he shouted.
        Jesus walked with two of our friends. It was in the Bread
        They recognised Him as they took in what He said.
        Peter went fishing, then met Jesus at a barbeque
        Was re-commissioned with new service in view.
        For several days He made plain
        What the Old Testament scriptures explain.
        “He was wounded for our transgression”
        “His sacrifice has made propitiation”.
        He led us to a mountain with amazing views
        “Go preach”, He said, “Tell the Good News”.
        “Make disciples from all nations
        “And I will be with you for all generations”.

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