The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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     Dictionary definitions for the word “claim” include (1) “a written request to an organization to pay you a sum of money which you believe you are owed;” (2) “To demand something of value because you believe the item belongs to you or you have a right to it; (3) “A statement that something is true or fact although other people may not believe the claim.”
     An insurance claim might be an example of the first definition while insisting that something found by another person actually belongs to you could be an example of the second definition. The claims of the cross serve as an example of the third definition as people both then and now do not believe or accept these claims.

     Just what are the claims of the cross? What does the cross signify? Why is the cross important and what made the cross necessary? Short and simple answers to these questions include the fact that:

  • You are a Sinner. Yes, but not just you. Actually everyone is a sinner. Scripture informs us that “we all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isa. 53:6) and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Why? Because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
     In an admittedly oversimplistic attempt to explain Romans 3:23 to children, I often ask if they have ever thrown a dart at a dart board. Upon their affirmative response, I’ll ask them what the black dot/circle in the middle of the target is. If I’m talking to a group of children such as Sunday School or VBS, many will shout in unison “That’s the bullseye!” I’ll then ask them what is so special about the bullseye. Typically someone will say “The bullseye is the highest score.” I continue my questioning by asking what happens when you throw a dart at the target and the dart falls short and hits a wall in your house instead of the target. Usually the children are silent and don’t respond so I’ll ask “Is your mom happy about having a hole in her wall?” Again, silence but most of the heads are moving back and forth. I’ll then summarize Romans 3:23 by saying that sin is anything that comes between you and God…anything that builds a barrier. And, because of your sin, you miss out on God’s best.
     The cross also points to the fact that because of your sin…
  • You deserve Separation and Suffering. Romans 6:23 emphatically declares that “the wages of sin is death….” Paul’s statement connecting sin and death was not a concept first presented in his letter to the church at Rome. From the very beginning God had declared that sin would result in death (Gen. 2:17). Death means separation. Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one understands that physical death results in separation from family and friends.
     While viewpoints and opinions are mixed and varied in the current debate regarding an increase in the federal minimum wage to a fair and appropriate level of compensation, the claim of the cross is not debatable or subject to change. Why? Because sin pays a fair wage. Why? Because what you and I deserve (“the wages”) for our sin is eternal separation from God in a place of eternal suffering and torment referred to in the Bible as “Hell” (Luke 16:23; 2 Peter 2:4ff).
     While the cross certainly signifies that everyone is a sinner deserving of eternal death, the good news presented by the cross is that…
  • You have a Substitute. A recent “From Daniels’ Den” highlighted the vicarious suffering of Jesus. Vicarious means that someone who doesn’t have to, for the sake and benefit of those who are undeserving, takes upon himself the burden of their need. Jesus was “pierced for our (yours and mine) transgressions” and “crushed for our (yours and mine) iniquities”… “by his wounds we (you and me) are healed…” as “…the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (you and me)” (Isa. 53:5-6). Isaiah also claimed that “He bore the sin of many (you and me) and made intercession for the transgressors (you and me)” (53:12).
     Barabbas certainly understood that he had a substitute. A murderous insurrectionist who was condemned to die surely heard the crowd crying “Crucify him! Crucify him!” From the vantage point of his jail cell, Barabbas must have thought that the crowd was demanding his death. Imagine how Barabbas must have felt as he heard both the footsteps of Roman soldiers approaching his cell and his name being shouted as they came. Likely he shrunk to the floor in the back corner of the cell with his heart racing and perspiration soaking his clothing. He knew that the cross was his destination. Crucifixion, the very word meaning “fixed to a cross” was the punishment reserved for the vilest offenders… the worst of the worst of criminals such as Barabbas. Yet, when the soldiers arrived at his cell, Barabbas perhaps heard them say something like “Barabbas, today is your lucky day! You won’t hang on a cross today because you have a substitute.”
     The claim of the cross is that Jesus died not only as a substitute for Barabbas but also for you and me. We deserve death but Jesus willingly and lovingly died in our place. Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul affirmed “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV). I like how both the Todays English Version and the Contemporary English Version present this verse: “Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God” (TEV) and “Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God” (CEV). (see also Rom. 4:25, 8:3; Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 2:22; Heb. 7:26).

     The cross signifies or makes claim to the fact that you and I are sinners deserving of eternal separation and suffering. If such were not true, then the cross would not have been necessary. The cross event is monumental because of God’s gift of mercy (withholding what we deserve) and grace (offering what is undeserved) presented through Jesus’ substitutionary atonement on the cross. Thus, the cross affirms that…

  • Jesus is the Savior. John the Baptist had earlier exclaimed “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John spoke of God loving “…the world in such a way that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16) and sending his only Son into the world “as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). A professor of mine once noted that “atonement” means to be “at – one – ment” with God. “At-one-ment” with God comes through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8; John 3:16) which leads to eternal life (Rom. 6:23; John 3:16) as children of God (John 1:12) and joint-heirs with Jesus (1 Peter 1:4; Matt. 25:34).

     I love to sing hymns and other Christian songs. Often (and usually when other folks aren’t present), I’ll just start singing one song after another. Summarizing the claims of the cross in song includes phrases such as “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains” and “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow” and “Alas, and did my Savior bleed and did my Sov’reign die? Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?” A. B. Christiansen wrote “Up Calvary’s mountain, one dreadful morn, Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn; Facing for sinners death on the cross, that he might save them from endless loss”.  More recently contemporary Christian artist Chris Tomlin wrote,

 He became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become His righteousness.

He humbled himself and carried the cross. Love so amazing. Love so amazing!

Jesus, Messiah. Name above all names, Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel.

The rescue for sinners, the ransom from Heaven. Jesus Messiah Lord of all.

 Thank you for the cross, Lord. Thank you for the price You paid. Bearing all my sin and shame, in love You came and gave amazing grace. Thank you for this love, Lord. Thank you for the nail-pierced hands. You washed me in Your cleansing flow, now all I know is Your forgiveness and embrace. Amen.