From Calvin Miller’s wonderful book, Once Upon a Tree, “All I am and hope for is riveted to that one mysterious moment when history froze into focus: the Cross of Christ! At that pivot of history, time stood still. Nothing moved. In time, I came upon this place; and found both excellence and shame. There Jesus’ sacrifice stands embarrassingly close to my self-centeredness. There I bring my greed and beg His generosity. There I bring all my trivial whimperings and marvel again at the depths of His suffering and how far He was willing to go.”
Once upon a cross … perfection was laid against imperfection, innocence bore the penalty of guilt. One of our Day School children asked me this week, “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?” The 4 year-old who asked me that question isn’t ready to understand atonement; I’m not certain I’m ready to understand it either.
Why was the cross necessary? Couldn’t God come up with another plan? Even Jesus asked His Father if there was another way: “Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me” (Luke 22:42).
Sin’s horror and devastation found its cruelest expression once upon a cross. Jesus did not die on the cross because Pilate condemned Him to death or the Temple leaders contrived to exterminate Him. No one forced Him to the tree. He could have summoned the armies of heaven to rescue Him. He could have spoken a word and halted His agony.
Why was the cross necessary? First, because He chose it. In the garden, He ended His plea to His Father with these words: “Yet I want Your will, not Mine.” Second, because He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He died my death, paid my penalty once upon a cross. He became sin so we would not be doomed by our own sin.
As we approach Holy Week, we glory in the open tomb, the empty grave. But before we can celebrate resurrection, we need to journey to Golgotha. We need to remember what happened once upon a cross.
Calvin Miller: “Again and again I ask myself what binds His dying to my living. The only answer is love – undeserved and unfailing: I need Him.”
This Lord’s day we continue the story of Jesus in our Covenant Groups and in worship. I hope you will be with us, a Bible in your hand and a friend by your side.