The cross. To some this represents the ultimate act of foolishness, and to others the ultimate act of love and sacrifice. The reality of the cross is that it comes with contrasts. Yet when you examine them thoroughly, you will discover they are beautiful in nature.
In this season, when we think more deeply about the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, I want you to remember six contrasts that the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus represent.
In John’s gospel we are reminded of who Jesus is.
In these first few verses, John establishes that Jesus was co-eternal with the Father. He was also co-equal and co-existent with the Father. We also see that Jesus was responsible for creation. But then later in the chapter we see a contrast appear. The one who was the creator became the created.
Before there could ever be a cross, Jesus first had to become like us. The beauty of this is that he did it so in turn we could become like him.
In this passage we see that Jesus willingly laid down his life. No one forced him to – he chose to. On purpose Jesus laid down his life, submitted to the will of the Father and let go of any rights he had for one simple reason. So that he could provide a way for you and I to go free. His submission bought us freedom.
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The words punishment and peace don’t even belong in the same sentence, but again it points to the beautiful contrast we see in the cross. God took all the rightly deserved punishment for sin that should have been placed on us and he put that all on Jesus.
Honestly that doesn’t seem fair because he didn’t deserve it, but there again is another contrast. He didn’t deserve punishment, but he took it so that we who didn’t deserve peace would be able receive to have peace with God. This is one reason why the cross truly represents the love of God in action.
Blood is one of the hardest stains to remove. If you ever watch shows that deal with forensics, sometimes people would commit a crime and in the process of committing the crime, blood would be spilled. The criminal would try to clean up the blood, but when the forensics team comes, they spray luminol which detects trace amounts of blood at crime scenes. The bottom line is if you want to clean something, you don’t use blood. Yet when it came to cleansing our sin, blood was exactly what was used. What a contrasting statement to make, the cleansing blood of Jesus.
However, there is another benefit of the blood of Jesus. It leaves an eternal mark on us that can never be washed away. Satan, no matter how hard he tries, can’t get around the blood.
If you have sinned, failed or really messed up, the blood is there to clean you up, and Satan can’t get past that.
Thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that will never lose its power.
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In the old days, they used to use a barter system. People might bring a dozen eggs to the store and exchange them for a pound of flour. Bartering was all about even exchange. When you break it down, the cross is really a barter system. The difference is the exchange is not even. We bring him our broken, sinful condition and he exchanges that for his perfect righteousness. There cannot be a bigger contrast than that.
Consider for a moment what happens at the cross.
- You come guilty, you leave justified.
- You come broken, you leave whole.
- You come a sinner, you leave forgiven.
- You come dead to God, you leave alive to God in Christ.
- You come an old man, you leave a new creation in Christ.
- You come humble, you leave seated in heavenly places.
- You come in bondage and a slave to sin, you leave free from the power of sin.
- You come carrying the weight of eternal damnation, you leave with the hope of eternal life.
- You come with all your ugly stuff, and he turns it into something beautiful.
- You come with your sin, and leave with his righteousness.
Let’s never underestimate the great exchange that happens at the cross, the ultimate barter system.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:23-24).
The last contrast to consider is that it was his death that produced life. His horrible death on a cross opened the way for you and I to have eternal life. Can there be a greater contrast than that? Sinless perfection died so that sinful men and women could live. There really is no greater love displayed than that.
As you remember the cross and the great sacrifice made for you, I want to remind you of this old song.
“I will cherish the old rugged cross.
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it one day for a crown.”
When it is all said and done, that will be the last contrast and exchange. The cross of Jesus for the crown of eternal life. My prayer today is that we who carry this message would represent it well and share it with those around us. Let us be true ambassadors and bring the hope of Jesus to a dying world who needs to hear it more than ever.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.