Have you ever heard the phrase “the crux of the matter”? What does that word crux mean? The dictionary definition is “the decisive or most important point at issue.” I took business as my major for my undergraduate degree. Many of the assignments and tests for my courses were case studies. These were not things you could really study for, it was really just a matter of determining the most important issue in the situation. You either got it or you didn’t.
One of the things that I find interesting about this concept of crux is that the word is also Latin for cross. What is interesting about this is that for Christians, the cross is the crux in both senses of the word. Crux means cross but the crux of Christianity is also Jesus on the cross. That is what we are going to be looking at.
It might seem more appropriate to look at one of the Gospels when it comes to Jesus on the cross. That would be good, but Paul had a talent for not just describing the cross but drawing out the theological implications for the cross on our life. Let’s take a look.
I served for a number of years in the army reserves. One of the things that I observed was about the reward structure. Promotions and medals were given, not out of love or compassion but based on merit. People needed to develop certain skills, take specific courses, spend a certain amount of time serving and demonstrate leadership ability. Once you accomplished what was required, you were reward with a promotion or a medal.
That is not the way that it works in Christianity. We will get into it about what we receive as a result of the cross, but Paul starts off with what we deserved. And what did we deserve? Nothing. There was nothing about humanity that demonstrated that we deserved for God to send his Son. This may be hard for us to swallow as everything about our culture is merit-based. we reward hard work. But the cross was not about hard work. This is called grace. Unmerited favour. Paul thought this so important that he spends more time on this in this passage than any other topic.
This should prevent us from getting puffed up with pride. We cannot boast that we were so special that Jesus died for us. Nothing about us made us worthy. This should also help shape our relations with others. God demonstrated his love to us when we didn’t deserve it. How do we determine who receives our love?
God Loves Us
We need to remember what the cross is. It was a means of execution by the Romans. It was not meant just to kill but to humiliate and thus to warn any future offenders. It was slow and painful. It was one of the worst things that anyone could experience. In fact this was one of the reasons why some people were hesitant to follow Jesus in the early days of the church. Everything that the cross represented involved defeat and failure. Not only did the Christians acknowledge the cross, they rejoiced in it. Why is that?
The cross is proof of God’s love for us. God did not come up with a new ritual or religious practice. He sent his Son to die the worst kind of death. John 3:16 reminds us, For God so loved the world.” Everything about the cross from God’s perspective is about love. Think about the things that you give different people. You will give things of little value to almost anyone but you give things that are precious to those you love. Jesus Christ is the most precious thing and it is the clearest demonstration of God’s love. There are many things about God that we don’t understand but we should never doubt that God loves us.
The Cross Reconnects Us With God
What actually happened on the cross? Jesus died. But what happened on the spiritual realm? There are many complex theories about what Jesus did on the cross and the means by which God used this for our salvation. Despite being a theology nerd, I have no interest in entering these debates. What is clear in Scripture is that God used Jesus on the cross to reconcile us to him. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and when we place our faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, we receive eternal life and we are adopted into his family. It is okay if we don’t fully understand how it takes place.
Imagine that you have a very serious illness and your life is at risk. Your doctor offers you an experimental treatment that ultimately cures you of your illness. While you may be interested, it is not necessary for you to fully understand the procedure to enjoy its benefits. You will want to know what was done and who to thank and that will be enough.
There is nothing wrong with digging through the Scriptures and attempting to understand the deeper theological implications of the cross. But what Paul focuses on here and what we generally find in the New Testament is that we are reconciled to God through the cross. That is what is important.
We are reconciled by Jesus’ death but we are also told that we are saved by his life. What life? His resurrection life. We dare not speak about the crucifixion without talking about the resurrection. The resurrection is integral to the crucifixion.
How many people were crucified by the Romans during the first century? We can’t know for certain but there are accounts of thousands of people being crucified at one time in one location. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross is not by itself remarkable.
How many people in the first century were resurrected from the dead? I don’t mean resuscitated, like Lazarus, but raised to a body that would never die again. Only one and that is Jesus. That was unique.
That is not to say that the empty tomb is more important than the cross, but the resurrection proves that something real happened on the cross. we can trust that reconciliation really happens because of the resurrection. Jesus conquers sin at the cross and shares his resurrection life with us.
What is the crux of the matter? The crux is the cross. In every sense. Jesus died on the cross for us. It was the ultimate revelation of God’s love and it reconciled us to him. This is not just an Easter message, this is the Christian message. It is the cross that gives us hope. There is room for us to get a lot of things wrong, but faith in what Jesus did on the cross is essential. Jesus died for us. Jesus died for you.