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The Cross

May 2000 | by David Campbell

Its Great Goal

If you had asked those who put Jesus to death what his goal was in dying, they would have denied that he had one. A goal in life, perhaps, but not in death. It was they who had the goal when it came to Jesus’ death, and that goal was simple and clear: to do away with him.

They hated him; they were jealous of him; they were afraid of what would happen if they allowed him to go on unchecked. They had to get rid of him! And that was their goal in crucifying him.

Reconciling purpose

The fact is, however, Jesus did have a goal in dying on Calvary, and the apostle Peter tells us what it was. Writing to his brothers and sisters in Christ ‘scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia’, he says, ‘Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ (1 Peter 1:1; 3:18).

As we saw last month, it was not for his own sins that Christ suffered and died. As the ‘righteous one’ he had none to suffer for. His death, rather, was for the sins of others; for those whom Peter describes as ‘the unrighteous’. And this was his aim: to bring them to God. The great goal of Jesus’ death was to bring sinners to God.

Damaged relationships

When we go back to Genesis 3, we find indications that our first parents’ sin affected their relationship with each other. For example, instead of being the help to Adam that God had created her to be, Eve became Satan’s instrument to draw him into sin. Having eaten the forbidden fruit herself, ‘she also gave some to her husband, who was with her’ (v.6).

And as for Adam, there is evidence of ill feeling towards Eve for doing so. When God called him to account for his sin, his infamous response was: ‘the woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it’ (v.12). The words suggest resentment not only toward God but toward ‘the woman’ also.

Sin, then, affected their relationship with each other. And it has been casting its dark shadow over marriage ever since. In the United Kingdom, for instance, nearly half of all marriages now end in divorce. The causes are various, but in the last analysis it comes down to one thing: sin. It damaged our first parents’ marriage, and in our nation’s homes it continues to do its destructive work.

Lost friendship

Genesis tells, however, that sin did something much worse to Adam and Eve. It damaged their relationship with God. They had been made for friendship with God and from the time of creation to the time of the Fall that friendship was of the closest kind.

One wonders what it was like. We are told in Genesis 3 that in the cool of the day on which the Fall took place, the Lord God walked in the Garden — something that may well have been his custom. And if it was, it must have been the happiest part of the day for Adam and Eve.

Let your imagination dwell on it — seeing God face to face, telling him what they had been doing during the day, showing him their work, asking him questions, delighting in his presence, reciprocating his love.

But with the Fall came a devastating change. Now, when ‘the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day … they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden’ (v.8).

They were afraid. The intimacy and freedom they had enjoyed with God from the beginning were now gone. Sin had come between them and ruined the beautiful friendship.

Needful reconciliation

And not just for them. As their descendants we have fallen heir to the tragedy. Right from the very start of life we stand in need of reconciliation to God. Sin separates us from God from conception, and there is nothing we can do to remove it. There is no ‘sin gene’ for the scientist to isolate and alter. Nor can we wash sin away as we wash stains from our clothes. It separates us from God completely and if the gap is ever to be bridged, God must do it himself.

Which brings us at last to the cross. What do we see when we look at Calvary in the light of Peter’s words? A great goal. Jesus was aiming at something when he took his people’s place and suffered for their sins. And that aim was reconciliation. It was to bring us to God. Jesus died to remove the sin that stood between sinners and their Maker.

In death, then, Jesus was a reconciler, a peacemaker. This is a noble office to fulfil. Do we not admire those who work with divided couples, divided groups, divided nations, and effect a reconciliation? Jesus is the greatest of them all. His aim was nothing less than the restoration of friendship between God and sinful man, the friendship lost in the Fall. And he willingly died to bring it about.

Great cost

The fact that he did so merits the closest attention. For one thing, it tells us how bad was the damage caused by sin.

Imagine a car that has been involved in a road accident. To judge by appearances, it has not been too badly damaged. But the cost of repairs turns out to be enormous, for the damage is much more extensive than was first supposed.

How can we tell how badly sin has damaged our relationship with God? By looking at the cost of putting it right! That is the determining factor.

The Bible tells us that the cost was enormous. The Son of God had to come from heaven and die in our place on the cross. That is what it cost to heal the breach between sinners and God. Sin so disrupted things, so ruined things, that nothing less than the sacrifice of God’s beloved Son was sufficient to put things right.

Great desire

But the fact that Jesus did die to bring his people to God tells us something else. It demonstrates how great wasGod’s desire to undo the damage.

We know very well what may happen with a damaged car. The insurance company decides that the cost of repairing it is too great and writes it off. Could we have blamed God if he had decided to write us off? After all, the cost of putting things right was extreme.

Amazingly, however, the cost was met. God the Father did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all. God the Son died for sin, ‘the righteous for the unrighteous’.

The great price was paid. The sacrifice needed to ‘bring us to God’ was actually made. And that tells us how intense was God’s desire to undo the damage; how earnestly he longed for the restoration of friendship and fellowship with lost sinners. We were in the wrong. Yet God was the one who bore the cost of reconciliation.

Great accomplishment

Genesis tells another story, that of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-50). Joseph’s brothers were afraid. Now that their father Jacob was dead they feared that Joseph, whom they had so cruelly wronged, would take revenge on them.

But nothing was further from Joseph’s mind. ‘You intended to harm me’, he said, ‘but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’ (Genesis 50:20).

The cross conveys the same message. The men who put Jesus to death intended nothing but harm. They wanted rid of him. But God, who has everything under his control, intended it for good.

This death was to heal a breach. This death was to take away sin. This death was to bring sinners back to God. And because of it, it is happening! The good that was planned is today being enjoyed by multitudes the whole world over. Through Jesus’ death we too have been brought to God.