Q and A on Cross Purposes
A. The cross is the central focus of the universe. There are many purposes it accomplishes. Cross Purposes obviously has more than one meaning. It was the devil’s intent to crush the Son of God through the cross. But it was God’s purpose to use the cross to forgive our sins. So what seemed to be the devil’s big triumph was instead his big defeat. God’s purposes of the cross include the restoration of creation, reconciliation between God and man, and the redemption of those souls who are or will be saved.
Q. Explain how the cross was foreordained before the foundation of the world.
A. The book of Revelation describes how Jesus was the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. God, who knows everything, including the future, knew of man’s sin in advance. He developed His own plan that the 2nd
Q. The Bible states that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. How did the cross fulfill this?
A. We all instinctively know that sin must be punished. Even pagan tribes around the world have often sacrificed animals–even humans sometimes–in order to try and appease the wrath of the gods. All of this is a foreshadowing of the cross. The cross is the true sacrifice that takes away our sin.
The Old Testament has many explicit directions on how goats and bulls were to be sacrificed to atone for sin–temporarily. But all of those sacrifices pointed to, and were fulfilled by, the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross. With the cross, all blood-shedding gives way. So the Old Testament sacrament, if you will, of circumcision becomes the non-bloody baptism (and also, now women are included). The bloody sacrifice of the lamb in the Passover celebration gives way to the non-bloody bread and the wine. The Old Testament sacrifices of sheep and bulls gives way to the non-bloody “sacrifice of praise” and thanksgiving that we are to offer unto God because of the cross.
Q. What is “Christ’s Bitter Cup”?
A. Dr. Kennedy says that you may imagine, if you will, visiting the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. You go into a large sealed room and see there hundreds of beakers which you are told contain the distillation of the germs, the bacteria, the viruses, for all the most dangerous diseases known to mankind. The black plague, cancer, AIDS, and every foul disease–all put into only one large beaker. When Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath, that was actually worse than it would be for someone to drink the contents of that beaker.
Q. Talk about the spiritual pain of the cross.
A. The spiritual pain was worse than the physical pain. When Christ was skewered to the cross, He became sin for our sake. God cannot tolerate sin, so for the first and only time in all of history, God the Father abandoned God the Son. He broke fellowship. On the cross, Jesus Christ, the pure, spotless Son of God, became the greatest sinner who ever lived. All of the guilt of the world was piled upon Him. Christ became the arch-criminal of the universe. God looked down upon His beloved Son and saw sin and turned His back on Him. Jesus was abandoned by His Father. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46b). There He hung, quivering with all of the loathsomeness and vileness of sin—alone and abandoned by God. It was at that moment that Christ carried the sins of this world.
Q. Talk about the physical pain of the cross.
A. The Romans went out of their way to make a point with crucifixion. No Roman citizen could be crucified. It was reserved for slaves and the criminal element. (By the way, about half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves.) But the purpose of crucifixion was a warning to others. Mess with Rome and this is how you end up. Someone has likened it to a living billboard. The sign of the crucified victim’s crime was put above his head. In Christ’s case, it read Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. We have a couple of chapters where we feature a recent interview with a retired Duke Medical school professor who has studied the crucifixion in detail, particularly in reference to the Shroud of Turin.
His name is Alan Whanger. Dr. Whanger said that this type of crucifixion was probably the worst type of punishment ever devised–not only all the preliminaries, the beating and the scourging and so forth. But this type of crucifixion was sort of a slow agonizing death–between the terrible pain coming from the nails being put through, hitting the major nerves in the body, and the suffocation. He would struggle for every breath ¾ to get each breath in His body and to get each breath out. This was sort of a slow writhing between this agonizing pain and suffocation, until He died. In most crucifixions, not that of Jesus, when it got time for the executioner to go home, they would break the lower legs, so the crucified man could no longer push himself up, and he’d suffocate in probably 12 to 15 minutes. Dr. Whanger said that the primary cause of the death of Jesus is awful trauma. A secondary cause of death would be suffocation.
Q. The cross as a symbol has become commonplace, but tell us about the horror of the cross.
A. Well, it was so horrible that Paul talks about the humiliation and the shame of the cross. Again, this form of punishment was NEVER used on a Roman. According to Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, professor of ancient history at Miami University (Ohio), crucifixion was so horrible and degrading that it was not until the Byzantine period (I.e., post-Constantine, who died 337 AD) that Christians began to artistically depict Christ on the Cross. By then, the horror of the Cross was far removed. How terrible is sin? We haven’t a clue. We live in it. We wallow in it. It’s up to our necks. Only those who live in a perfect world like Heaven would have the foggiest notion of how horrific sin really is. Sin is all that is against God’s law and God’s will. He is of purer eyes than even to look upon iniquity and has promised that He will visit our transgressions with the rod. But Christ took on our sin for our sake. Ours sins nailed Him to that Cross.
Q. You quote many church leaders through the centuries in this book, including many of the early church fathers. Tell us about that.
A. Well, all of these devotional chapters are replete with what I think are great quotes that supplement well what we’re trying to say. We went out of our way to try and provide quotes from virtually every era of church history because the message of the cross has been the heart of the gospel from the beginning. We feel people sometimes forget about the fact there is this rich tradition of 20 centuries of Christian history. So, in the book you can find pithy statements from Justin Martyr of the second century, St. Augustine from the 4th century, John Calvin from the 16th century, C. S. Lewis from the 20th century¾and lots of other Christian leaders in between.
Q. Explain how the cross was predicted hundreds of years before it happened–even before crucifixion was invented.
A. The Syro-Phoenicians invented crucifixion about 600 years before Christ. The Romans perfected this grisly form of capital punishment. Yet 400 years before it was invented, in about 1000 BC, King David prophesied about the crucifixion of Christ. In Psalm 22, David takes us to the foot of the cross. Here we have a man whose hands and feet are pierced, and He’s surrounded by dogs. They stripped Him naked, and with His bones all being pulled out of joint, there He hangs in this shameful position of nakedness and horror and agony before the crowd, many of whom were just sitting down watching this horrible spectacle. He is thirsty, they cast lots for His clothing. And then the Psalm closes with the point that “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord.” The message of the cross has gone out into all the world. Although there is still more work to do, it is amazing how well known His death is. And, of course, there are other Old Testament prophecies–written hundreds of years before Christ–that focus on the cross of Christ.
Book excerpt used from Cross Purposes by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe. Multnomah Publishers February 2007. Used with Permission.