Most everyone knows the story of Jesus and the cross. Even agnostics and atheists have heard the story. We talk about it in church, particularly during a salvation message and at Easter. My question is, how many people know what really happened on the cross? For example, exactly why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Why did He say the things He did while on the cross? What was the legal transaction that occurred? How does the cross affect us legally?
In order to answer these questions, we must first go back to the beginning of mankind in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
The key point I want to pull from this scripture is that God made us in His image and likeness, to rule the earth. He gave us dominion and authority over the earth and everything on it.
Adam and Eve lived in a perfect paradise as spiritual beings in glorified human bodies. They walked and talked with God daily. God intended them to spread that paradise and His glory throughout the entire planet by being fruitful and multiplying (Genesis 1:28).
We all know that Adam and Eve didn’t accomplish their mission, because instead of believing in God’s plan, they made their own. They ate from the forbidden tree and caused sin and death to enter the world. Sin separated them from God and stopped the flow of God’s glory into the world. From that point on, every human born of a man and woman, was born spiritually dead and separated from God.
The biggest ramifications of Adam and Eve’s sin were that they gave legal right and authority over to satan and the sin would result in every human going to hell at the end of their life. Hell was not made for mankind, it was made for satan/lucifer and the rest of the angels that rebelled against God, were defeated by the archangel Michael and the rest of the angels, and cast out of heaven. Satan now had the keys to sin and death.
In order to continue relationship with His children, God created a system of blood sacrifice, where animals were slain and their blood used as an offering to cover sin. This continued from the days of Adam and Eve to the death of Jesus. The problem with this type of sacrifice was that it was only good until the next sin. It wasn’t a blanket coverage for all sin.
That is why the Son of God had to set aside His Godly attributes, be born as a human child, grow in wisdom and stature, and then die on the cross. The heavenly legal system required a human blood sacrifice to redeem all of the sins of mankind. AND, that human had to be sinless, which wasn’t possible for those born of a man and woman, which is why the Holy Spirit had to impregnate the virgin, Mary, so that the sin nature (which was passed on by the man) would not be in Jesus. Then, Jesus, who had the same free will that all mankind has, had to stay sinless during His life on earth.
When Jesus shed His blood on the cross, it did two things legally. First, it was the necessary blood sacrifice to cover the sins of mankind for all time, taking away the power of sin and death. Now, sinful humans could be viewed by God as sinless and go to heaven. The second thing Jesus’ death did legally was to restore dominion and authority back to mankind (check out True Disciple #8 on www.TrueDisciple.Info for my message on authority).
So often we hear that Jesus was fully God and fully man, which is true and a bit hard to understand in light of His life on earth. The way I’ve always thought of this was that Jesus set aside His godly powers and authority, so He could be confined to a woman’s womb. He went from purely a Spirit being to a human being. He could not die on the cross as God or it would not meet the legal requirement to redeem mankind. The sacrifice required a 100% sinless flesh and blood man and Jesus was that.
Let’s look at what happened on the cross and what Jesus said to fully understand the magnificence of His selfless act. First, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:24).” This is Jesus saying, “Father, I love them so much, I will die in their place. Do not legally hold their sin against them, allow me to take their sin and punishment.”
Next, Jesus said to one of the criminals on the cross beside Him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will with me in paradise.” This showed two things: First that Jesus was the way to paradise/heaven and second that works were not necessary (as the criminal had done nothing to make himself worthy), only belief in Jesus as Savior (which the criminal did on the cross). This established Jesus as the door to heaven and the only way to the Father.
Jesus said, “My god, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is when God had poured all of the sin of mankind – all the killings, rapes, child molestation, pornography, addictions, abuse, stealing, lying, gossip, back biting, witchcraft, and every other type of evil throughout the history of mankind. Think about how heavy sin weighs on you. Now imagine how heavy the sin of the world would be. Plus, for the first time in all of eternity, the Father had to move away from the Son, because He was now sinful. He that was sinless, became sin for us. Not only was Jesus feeling the weight of all the sin, but the despair of life without God’s love (which is what those who deny Jesus and choose hell will feel).
Then Jesus said, “I thirst”. He was the sinless living water that would keep everyone from thirsting, but in that moment, He was the most sinful man of all time and in sin there is a dryness that can only be satisfied by the living water. In His death, Jesus caused that living water to flow from heaven into our spirits, so we would never thirst (spiritually).
Next, Jesus said, “It is finished”. He has accomplished His earthly mission, to be the perfect blood sacrificial lamb, to cover the sin and bring mankind back into right relationship with the Father.
Jesus then cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus, full of the sin of all mankind and heading to eternity in hell, was trusting His spirit to the Father. He was trusting that the Father, through the Holy Spirit would raise Him from physical death and deliver Him from eternity in hell to eternity in heaven at the right hand of the Father, which we know is what happened (with a short 40-day delay to appear to over 500 people in His resurrected human body).
Jesus legally took the sin punishment for all mankind for all time, bringing us into right relationship with the Father and enabling us to be spiritually connected, as Adam and Eve were. He also took back the keys of sin and death, so that sin would have no power over mankind (at least all who acknowledge Jesus as their Savior and Lord), and He legally took back dominion and authority over the earth for mankind. Satan still thinks and acts like he’s in control, but he’s not, we are.
There was a lot that happened on the cross and we should be so grateful that Jesus was willing to give up everything to die for His friends (us). There is no greater love!