Why did the greatest theologian and evangelist and writer the world has ever known summarize his own ministry in two words: “Christ crucified?” (1 Corinthians 1:22–24) Why not Christ feeding the five thousand? Or Christ healing the paralytic? Or Christ turning the tables over in the temple? Or Christ raising Lazarus?
Why focus on His crucifixion? His death?
Twenty years after Jesus’ death, Paul also wrote a letter to the church in Galatia, a church that we might describe as Spirit-filled, even charismatic, containing eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion. To those people, Paul said, “Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” (Galatians 3:1) Translation? “What happened to your focus? You stood there and watched this man bleed and die. You heard the word come out of His mouth. What has happened to you since? Why have you taken your eyes off this man and His cross?”
The Cross is the sole basis for God’s total provision for us. Period. Everything He did, does, and will do for us and in us, He does through the Cross and the shed blood of His only Son. There is no path back to Him that does not go through the Cross. Paul told the Romans, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) With and through Jesus, the Father grants us all things—and first on the list is a path back to Himself. Without Jesus, we receive nothing. And no way back.
So why take this pilgrimage?
Because, while “It is finished,” He is not. His work on the Cross was perfect. Complete. Absolute. And because of it and through it, He continues working in and through us. The Cross is the singular basis of Christ’s total defeat of satan and his kingdom. satan had no response then and has none now. There’s nothing he can do about it. his defeat was complete, everlasting, and irrevocable. And while satan can’t change what happened on that Friday, he has been working ever since to hide what happened there. To obscure the work of the Cross. To avert our eyes. This is why Paul told the Galatians they’d been “bewitched.” Even though they were Spirit-filled eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and God was actively doing miracles in their church, they’d taken their eyes off the Cross. Some power of darkness obscured the work of the Cross and they were focused on something else.
If Paul were alive today, I think he’d take one look around and say, “See my letter to the Galatians.” We are no different. We are too easily bewitched and routinely take our eyes off the Cross. Off Jesus Christ crucified. God, in His mercy, has provided one path back to Himself, and that path is through the Cross. The Father delivered the Son to the Cross, and in return, the Cross became the symbol of our deliverance and the enemy’s defeat. Our job is to “believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25)
Throughout history, there have been two primary responses to the death of Jesus: mock, spit, curse, beat, scourge, and crucify, or fall at His feet and cry out, “My Lord and my God.”
A third response is indifference, which is simply a variation on the first.
From the onset, let me pose a question. And in asking, I’m not poking you in the chest. I’m hoping to wrap an arm around your shoulder, come alongside, and walk with you. Pilgrims, headed in the same direction: What will you do with this man, Jesus? Shove a sponge in His mouth, or bow?
I want to return here. Every day. To look up from a different angle and ask the Father to reveal to us, What does this mean? What did You do here that I so easily forget and take for granted? What do I not realize about me that You’ve never forgotten? I am coming back here because I know me and I need to be reminded what the Cross has done in me. Done to me. Done for me. Again and again.
God seldom works through without first working in, to, and for.
My encouragement is to press in. Look up. See it again for the first time. Let the blood of Jesus, which flows fresh from the Cross on Calvary, do for the first time, the tenth time, or the ten thousandth time what only the blood can do in you and to you. No matter how many times I or we have been here, we never graduate from the Cross. This doesn’t mean it’s the final destination. It’s not. For which I thank God. There is an empty tomb just over this hill, but the path leading to it runs through this Cross.
Without this Cross, there is no tomb. No “He is risen.” No “firstborn from among the dead.” (Colossians 1:18) No Savior with the keys of death and hell dangling from His belt. No Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End. Before we can celebrate where He is not (i.e., the tomb) and why He is not there, we need to backtrack to where He’s been, how He got there, and what His presence there accomplished.