Easter seems like the best time for evangelism. It is often seen as a window of opportunity to talk freely about faith. During this time especially, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus are the focus of the church, both locally and across the world. Like Christmas, there are services that appeal to people because of tradition, and are seen as opportunities to share the hope of Jesus. However, preaching “Christ crucified” is not just for Easter.
Those leading services and sharing the gospel message cannot afford to keep the cross of Christ in a box like an Easter egg. If the egg stays inside the box and is merely observed, it is not being held, delighted in, and eventually consumed. Similarly, if the preaching of the cross is only proclaimed fully at Easter, the delight, the joy and the reality of all Jesus has done will not be given to a hungry, hurting world starved of truth.
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The Cross Is Central to the Christian Faith
How we understand and grasp Christ crucified is essential. The very fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross is a historical fact. Yet, it is not just another event in history. The cross of Christ is where the sin of the world was placed upon the sinless Son of God. Jesus died whilst we were still sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). It was only Jesus who could be the atonement for our sin. God’s plan was to save the world through Jesus Christ to bring us back into relationship with Him.
Our sin separates us from the holiness of God (Isaiah 59:2). Jesus, being fully man and fully divine, was able to walk upon the earth, experience suffering, and face the wrath of God’s punishment for sin. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus (Romans 6:23). Our bodies will all eventually face death, but for the Christian who trusts in the saving work that Jesus did on the cross, they will never face eternal separation from God. They will be made alive to live with Him in eternity forever.
If we forget the wonder and brutality of what it cost Jesus on the cross, and relegate it to the sidelines until Easter, we are no longer proclaiming Christ crucified to a world that is dead in sin. The good news of the cross is life-saving, life-giving and essential teaching for every day of the year.
The Cross Is the Only Way to Be Saved
Claims of absolute truth may leave a sour taste for many, but God is clear on the way of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The way of Jesus is inclusive as it is open to all who come to Him in repentance. The cross is the only way of reconciliation to God. Without it, we remain lost and dead in sin, separated from our Creator. There are many other man-made religions and practices that expect much of mankind. Yet, Christianity is all about what God has done for us, not what we must do for God. All we need to do is come to Him in repentance and faith.
We cannot change our hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. We cannot make ourselves better people. Jesus knows the worst about us, and still died for us. Religion and morality do not save; they bind and imprison. Jesus sets us free and saves His people to the uttermost. As it says in Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
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The Cross Is Good News for a Dying World
Easter is a time where the dark, cold days of winter have been left behind and sunnier skies are ushered in. As spring bursts forth with new life and lighter, warmer days become more frequent; there is hope in the air. However, the crucifixion of Jesus is both hope-filled and horrifying. The picture of Christ crucified was the darkest day in all history. The sky turned dark, the ground shook, rocks split open, and it was as if the world in all its brokenness felt the magnitude of this history-shaking event (Matthew 27:45, 51). At the same time, graves were opened, many of God’s people were raised to life and the temple curtain was torn in two, signifying that the way to God was open (Matthew 27:51-52).
Although it was the darkest day, it was also the greatest day. Without the cross, there would be no resurrection. Without a resurrection, there would be no hope.
The world is filled with the effects of sin. There is a longing for peace, a desire for justice, a cry for consolation, a fear for the future. All around, humanity has made a mess because of the disease that each one of us is riddled with - sin. The cross of Christ is the cure.
Through Adam, the curse of death came upon the human race. But through the death of Jesus on the cross, people are justified and given life. As it says in Romans 5:18-19, “...just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” There is life in Jesus for every sinner who truly repents and believes in what He did on the cross for them. This is good news for a dying world, every day of the year.
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The Cross Was Proclaimed by the Early Church in Power
The apostle Paul said “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). This was Paul’s central focus and what he believed, taught and lived in the knowledge of. In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The message may seem foolish to the outside world. It was in the days of the early church too. However, Paul recognized that Christ crucified was the power and wisdom of God. There is power and wisdom found in the truth of the gospel message.
Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy that “it is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15). This is the message of the cross. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. We are all sinful, and it is Jesus who saves.
There is power in the cross to save, to set free and to wash clean the sin of all of those who accept this trustworthy statement. Easter reminds us of all that it cost Jesus to do that. Let’s not forget or stop proclaiming this truth when Easter is finished, as we continue living in the power of the risen Savior.
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The Cross Is for the Whole of the Christian Life
Although the crucifixion of Jesus happened over 2000 years ago, Jesus said that anyone who wants to be His disciple would have to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow’” Him (Matthew 16:24). The journey toward Easter includes Lent, where some choose to abstain or deny themselves certain things. Although this can be a helpful practice as Christians reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus more fully, the call to deny ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus, is lifelong.
If we take our eyes off of Christ crucified once the Easter celebrations have finished, we are at risk of placing our eyes onto other things. We can slip into worldliness and our priorities can shift away from what Jesus says about those who wish to follow Him. Denying ourselves and taking up our cross are not easy things to do. We need the power of God working in us, and to continually surrender our life to Him, following and partaking in His suffering.
Following Jesus was never meant to be a life of comfort or ease. We just need to look at what happened to His earliest followers and what continues to happen around the world today to people who risk their very lives to follow Jesus. By preaching Christ crucified at Easter and throughout the year, we are declaring like Paul: “I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). Taking up our own cross in this life, we join with Jesus in His death, which is the real pathway to resurrection power and eternal life in Him.
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Originally published Wednesday, 22 March 2023.