Summary: The cross of Jesus and his resurrection can give you hope.
If there is one symbol that Christians around the world recognize, it is the cross. The cross is a positive symbol, not just because it looks like a plus sign, but because the death of Jesus is a positive event. It is a forward-looking event. It is a saving event. In spite of its gruesome reputation for criminal execution, that instrument of death for Jesus became the means of grace and forgiveness for us because, as Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins.” And the Bible tells us that he died on a cross. The death of Jesus became the means of our salvation.
Generally speaking, it is hard for us to see death as a positive event. Death seems wasteful, tragic, and useless. When we hear that someone’s life was cut short, as we have heard in the news several times this week, we say “What a shame.”
Every so often we hear of a death that has the effect of saving the lives of others. In the March 2006 Reader’s Digest, I read about Kevin Beardsley, the father of the 12-year-old boy scout who got lost in the Uinta Mts. in Utah. He had taken a wrong turn when he started back to camp to change his shoes and he got lost. And they never found him. Beardsley couldn’t bear to think of another boy meeting the same fate. He set up a foundation to buy GPS tracking equipment and established a pool of trained volunteers to be ready to search within minutes when the call came. Ten months later, sure enough the call came. It took 3 days, but they were able to find 11-year-old Brennan before it was too late. The death of Beardsley’s son made it possible for Brennan to live. Later Beardsley said, “I know my son saved Brennan’s life.”
In Jesus’ case, even though he suffered terribly in the hours leading up to his crucifixion, his death benefited more than the people around him who knew him. Jesus’ death on the cross was positive beyond calculation because as the Bible says, he died for the sins of the whole world. He took the rap for all of us. Think about that this week as we begin the countdown this week towards Easter. Think about that as we observe the love feast on Thursday. Think about that as you consider what happened on Good Friday. Remember that he died for your sins. Remember that he died for the sins of your family. Remember that he died for the sins of your neighbor, the brat down the street, your closest friend, your worst enemy, political leaders, undocumented immigrants, and terrorists. Remember. Remember. Remember.
The scripture we read a few moments ago was written to remind some new Christians of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Verse 1 says it is good news. And we all know that our world needs some good news.
Last week I talked with an immigrant who said he had lived his life with lots of hate, anger, and problems of all kinds. He had tried Islam and Buddhism. He felt he was under a curse, until recently when he put his faith in Jesus. And that has changed everything for him. He showed me his bracelet. In big letters it said GOD POWER. And in smaller letters it had the words “Be strong in the Lord.” He told me about the words in Ex. 14, “Hold on and God will fight the battle for you.” He couldn’t get done telling me about the good news that has changed his life. He went on to tell me about Jesus’ words in Mt. 7, “Ask and it shall be given you.” All you have to do is ask, he said. And he told me how God has answered his prayers numerous times since he put his trust in Christ.
I don’t know where you are on your faith journey. You may be facing challenges that don’t have easy answers. You may be suffering physically or emotionally and don’t know where to turn. You may be carrying a load of guilt because you know that you have sinned. But the good news is that because of Jesus your sin can be forgiven and your load can be lifted. And let me encourage you, just as Paul encouraged the Corinthians in verse 2, to hold on firmly to this message of good news.
When Paul wrote this letter, he wanted them to understand that the gospel is bigger than the cross. He wants them to know that not only did Jesus give his life on the cross, he came out on the other side. The problem was that some of them did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. And that is a problem because without the resurrection, there is no victory over evil. Without the resurrection, the way we live doesn’t matter; moral choices have no consequence.