"Only those who realize that the cross is the center of hope for the human family can understand the gospel that Christ taught". Testimonies to the Church, 8:206.
A. This message is not addressed to those who are offended by the cross, nor to unbelievers, nor to those wise in their own conceits who think it foolish.
1. Rather, it is addressed to those who might share, to some degree, in the attitude of those two sadhearted disciples to whom Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus. They loved Him. They knew He had died. But they did not see why His death was necessary.
2. Why did He have to die? The unrecognized Christ who walked beside them lovingly described them as "foolish men, and slow of heart to believe" (verse 25) and asked, "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"(verse 26).
3. To consider His question in our own context, the cross was necessary from two points of view, God's and man's.
II. From God's point of view, the cross was necessary
A. The cross was necessary to reveal God's evaluation of human life.
1. In Jesus' day human life was cheap,
a. Unwanted children were disposed of.
b. A slave might be killed by his master, and no questions were asked,
c. Despots like Nero lighted their gardens with human torches.
B. Human life is cheap in our day also.
1. This is what makes war possible.
2. This makes poverty and slums and economic injustice possible.
C.But life is not cheap.
1. In God's sight life is supremely valuable.
2. His Son's death on the cross demonstrates this.
3. Human life is not cheap when God was willing to give His only Son to die to save it.
D. The cross was necessary to reveal the very essence of God's character.
1. "God is love" (1 John 4: 8b).
2. Again John says, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (4:10).
3. We could never see that without the cross. "But God commendeth his love toward us," Paul tells the Romans, "in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (5:8).
a. The cross reveals God in His limitless love,
b. The cross reveals God not as a God of vengeance, nor as a despotic ruler, nor as a merciless judge, but as a loving Shepherd taking the trail of suffering and death to find the sheep that was lost.
E. The cross was necessary to reveal God's estimate of sin.
1. We call our sins mistakes, weaknesses, slips, complexes
a. What is sin?
b. How bad is sin?
c. Illustration. A pastor was waiting in a hospital with an anxious father whose little girl was in surgery. Presently, the surgeon came in and described the surgery he had just done. The incision went more than halfway around the little body. A rib had been removed. A nerve had been deliberately clipped. After the surgeon left, the father turned to his pastor and said, "If it took all that to make her well, my baby must have been terribly sick." The world was and is terribly sick. Only the blood of Christ can heal it.
III. From man's point of view, the cross was necessary
A. Apart from Christ's death on the cross, we have no salvation; and apart from His sacrifice for our sakes, no hope. The cross is necessary for us. It is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).
B. The cross is the power of God to challenge our sinful hearts.
1.Jesus said: (John 12:32).
2. Nothing but the cross could have such arresting, lifting power.
3. Paul speaks of Christ in the most personal terms when he refers to Him as "the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20b).
4. To have someone willing to die for us is an arresting experience; and when someone does so, the experience can be traumatic,
a. Illustration. A hunter and his dog became temporarily separated. As the hunter was trying to cross a swift stream in a flimsy boat, the boat capsized. At that exact moment, his dog spotted him and immediately plunged into the swirling waters to save his master. The hunter caught the limb of a tree downstream and eventually made it to shore, but the dog was not so fortunate. His master stood helplessly on the riverbank and watched his faithful dog drown. Later he said, "It is a challenging thing to have someone die for you—even a dog." But consider this: The Son of God loved us and gave Himself up for us.
B. The cross is the power of God to atone for our sins. 1. The New Testament is most emphatic on this point. The New Testament has no fine-spun theories about the Atonement. It presents the Atonement—plain! repeated! emphatic!
a. Paul says (2 Cor. 5:14b; Titus 2:14a).
b. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (9:22b).
c. In his first epistle John says, "And he is the propitiation (expiation] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
C. The cross is the power of God to change us.
1. In 2 Corinthians, Paul comes to this conclusion: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (5:17).
A. Let us never question God's ways or God's love.
B. The cross was necessary for Him, it is for us. "Hallelujah for the cross!"