Cross, Death, Burial
“God shows His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried …
It is an incredible truth that Jesus Christ died upon a cross for the ungodly! During his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter makes clear (Acts 2:23) that Jesus was delivered up “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The death of Jesus Christ was not an accident, or happenstance. Jesus knew throughout His ministry that it was God’s will that He be delivered over to wicked men, mocked, shamefully treated, spat upon, flogged, and crucified (Luke 18:32-34). Each one of the Gospels record this event which is essential to our salvation.
The crucifixion of Jesus accomplished atonement for the sins of God’s people. As defined by Wayne Grudem, the atonement is “the work that Christ did in His life and death to earn our salvation.” We did not earn our salvation; Jesus did what was necessary by grace alone. It’s right to ask why Jesus had to die upon a cross. The answer to this question has to do with the holiness of God, the justice of God, and the love of God. In His holiness, God is perfect in all His character and all His actions. He is perfectly righteous and without sin. His command from the beginning with Adam and Eve still stands – if we rebel against the perfect ways of the Lord, we will surely die (Romans 6:23). The perfect justice of God requires a satisfaction be made for our sins.
The Bible calls this satisfaction of sin a propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice that bears punishment, or wrath, so that a just judge might be satisfied. Romans 3:23-26 speaks to this situation very specifically. We are justified (or made right) before God by the gracious substitution of Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to be the substitutionary atonement for our sins (John 3:26). Through the cross of Christ the justice of God is met, and the overflowing gracious love of God is open to us in Jesus. For us, God is both just and the Justifier. This is good news!
Many people are offended by the cross, but a denial of the cross is a denial of the gospel. Those who would call the cross a form of “child abuse” wrongly isolate the crucifixion event from the broader Biblical narrative. It is clear in the New Testament that God the Father loves the Son (Matthew 3:17) and that through the saving work of Jesus on the cross, the Father will exalt the Son and bestow on Him a “name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus willingly gave up His life for His chosen people. He laid down His life for the sheep. But unbelieving non-Christians will never recognize these spiritual realities. They do not recognize their own sins, and they do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God (2 Corinthians 2:7-10). Without discerning these two basic spiritual realities, the cross just doesn’t make sense.
Jesus was crucified and died. Jesus called out from the cross, “It is finished,” then He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit (John 19:30). All the will of God the Father for Jesus to accomplish the atonement and salvation of His people – was finished. Jesus had accomplished this glorious atonement for which He had come into the world. There was no other way. He had drunk the cup of God’s wrath to the bottom and had born the penalty of our sins in His own body on the cross. It was finished! When He died, the gravity of this spiritual reality spilled out into the physical world with an earthquake, darkness, and the veil of the temple being torn from top to bottom.
Jesus was crucified and was buried. His burial was not just a matter of course. Jesus’s body was buried with honor and with love. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had watched Jesus’s ministry from afar, but in the end came out of the shadows and, by faith, honored the body of Jesus in burial. His death should have been our death. His grave should have been our grave. Jesus died in your stead, so that you might live.
May we never lose sight of the cross of Jesus,
< This is part six in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. If you have missed previous articles, they can be found on the church blog. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >