“TELL OF THE CROSS WHERE THEY NAILED HIM”: WHAT THE DEATH OF CHRIST TELLS US
By Wayne S. Walker
Why did Jesus come to earth, be born of a virgin, experience temptation, engage in His labor, and suffer all kinds of sorrows? One answer might be that He did all these things in order to prepare the way for Him to die—and He knew that this was His ultimate goal. “Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ So they answered, ‘John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’ Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:27-31). Fanny J. Crosby, in her well-known gospel song of 1880, wrote, “Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, Writhing in anguish and pain.” But that brings up another question. Why did Jesus have to die? What was accomplished by the fact that He was killed? In this article, we want to discuss the topic, what the death of Christ tells us.
He died to provide an atonement for our sins. Over and over, the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, tells us that the main problem faced by mankind is sin. The prophet told Israel, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). The apostle Paul confirms this. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24). The problem is that we cannot make atonement for our sins by our own good works. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Thus, we need atonement for our sins which we cannot provide, and God made it by Christ’s death. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
He died to offer us forgiveness. Because Christ’s death was an atonement, it deals with the problem of sin and makes remission possible. In instituting the Lord’s supper, Jesus said of the cup or fruit of the vine, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Thus, the Bible teaches that Christ died for sinners. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). As a result, He enables us to obtain forgiveness. Concerning the spiritual blessings in Christ, Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1: 7).
He died to make reconciliation with God possible. Again, we must understand that when we are guilty of sin we are separated from God by our sin. This is what is meant when Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). Also, we need to recognize that there are eternal consequences, being “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). To avoid this penalty, we need to be reconciled to God. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). And Jesus, because He made atonement and thus offers forgiveness by His death, gives us the access to be reconciled to God. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:21-22).
In 1762 Joseph Hart wrote a hymn which we often sang when I was growing up to prepare our minds for the Lord’s supper:
- That dreadful night before His death
The Lamb for sinners slain;
Did almost with His dying breath,
This solemn feast ordain.
- To keep the feast, Lord, we have met,
And to remember Thee;
Help each redeemed one to repeat,
“For me, He died for me!”
We can talk about what the death of Christ accomplished, but until each of us realizes that we, personally, are sinners and that Christ died for us as individuals, His death will not have much meaning. What does the death of Christ mean to you?
—in Search for Truth; Oct. 18, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 12