In Christianity, the cross is the intersection of God’s love and His justice. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God points back to the institution of the Jewish Passover in Exodus 12. The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and smear the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of their homes. The blood would be the sign for the Angel of Death to “pass over” that house, leaving those covered by blood in safety. When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John recognized Him and cried, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), thereby identifying Him and God’s plan for Him to be sacrificed for sin.
Because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross, those who place their faith and trust in Him alone for salvation are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). However, Jesus called His followers to take up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). This concept of “cross-bearing” today has lost much of its original meaning. Typically, we use “cross-bearing” to denote an inconvenient or bothersome circumstance (e.g., “my troubled teen is my cross to bear”). However, we must keep in mind that Jesus is calling His disciples to engage in radical self-denial. The cross meant only one thing to a 1st-century person—death. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Galatians reiterates this theme of death of the sinful self and rising to walk in new life through Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
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