The Purpose of the Cross - Part 1

It is not possible to be a Christian and live your life as if it belongs to you.
As we continue to study the gospel of John, we near the end of Jesus's earthly journey.

It's interesting that John didn't include the story of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. After all, he was there. Although there is speculation about why John didn't include this incident, I believe he was maintaining his integrity. His gospel was told as an eyewitness account, and yet, he, James, and John kept falling asleep and didn't actually hear what Jesus prayed.

John does, however, give us a glimpse of the intensity of Jesus's prayer when he quotes the Lord in John 12:27, "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour."

Jesus was thinking about the cross, where He, the Spotless Lamb, would become sin for us. His soul was deeply troubled. This caused Him to ask the hypothetical question, "And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?" (v27)

We can see similar wording to His agony poured out in the Garden. We can see the mental torture our Lord felt. I believe Jesus experienced this agony for two reasons. He knew, in specific detail, what was to come: the agony, the shame, the humiliation. But worse still, Jesus knew He would experience what He never had from eternity past, broken fellowship with His Father as He took on His wrath on our behalf. No wonder He cried out, "Now is my soul troubled."

Because of Christ's work on the cross, we're able to stand totally forgiven and righteous before God, not because of any works we've done, but because of Jesus's blood and righteousness, which has been ascribed to us through faith in Christ alone. Because Jesus was troubled for what He would go through on the cross, we don't need to be troubled on Judgment Day! He bore all our guilt on the cross, and now we can experience peace with God!

Jesus shows us how to handle our emotions. He experienced the entire gamut of emotions yet was without sin. He expressed His loathing of the cross but quickly submitted to the Father's will. That's how we should respond to difficult trials in life. We should pray like Jesus, submitting to the Father's will, praying, "Father, glorify Your name."

We read the Father's response in verse 28, "Then a voice came from heaven: 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.'"

This is one of only three occasions recorded in the Gospels when the Father spoke from heaven: at Jesus's baptism (Luke 3:22); at His transfiguration (Luke 9:35); and now, as the Son submits to the cross.

Let me ask you a question. Why did Christ die on the cross? I've asked people that question countless time over the years. Over a decade ago, when I was doing door-to-door evangelism, that's a question that would often come up. The answers were always something along the lines of "Christ died for our sins" or "He died to save us."

Now, those are right answers. But they're not the main reason Jesus died on the cross. He died in order to glorify the Father. The cross showed the angels in heaven, the demons below, and the inhabitants of the whole world the vast riches of God's grace and love, reconciling the world with Himself. That grace and love can be seen in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Roman 5:8).

When the Father spoke, the crowd couldn't make out what they were hearing. At least to some, it was merely an indistinguishable noise. Jesus says in verse 39, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine."

But then, why would the Father speak to Jesus in a way the crowd couldn't understand? If it was meant for the crowd, why wouldn't the Father speak in a way for them to hear?

I believe we get a hint in Hebrews 1:1-2, "After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world."

Jesus is the Father's spokesman. If we want to know what God has to say, we must listen to Jesus, who speaks for Him. In fact, that's exactly what the Father tells Peter, James, and John at the transfiguration. The Father told them, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!" (Luke 9:35)

In verse 31 and following of John 12, Jesus explains what the Father meant by "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."

Verse 31 reads, "Now is the judgment of this world."

Because of the cross, men will be able to see the emptiness of this world. Its philosophies, its values, and its standards are all exposed as evil and destructive.

The philosophies of this world are about self-indulgence, but Jesus says that life must be put to death. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

It is not possible to be a Christian and live your life as if it belongs to you.

The second half of verse 31 says, "Now will the ruler of this world be cast out." Scripture declares Satan to be the prince of this world. We are victims of his deceptions. From the moment we're conceived, we're blinded by our sin. We have no idea how total his control is of the human race. We're exposed to the demonic delusions Satan sends into the world and we blindly follow them. We're constantly being manipulated by satanic values. We think we're living our lives how we see fit when, in reality, we're slaves to sin, under satanic influence, and incapable of change apart from Christ.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, Satan was defeated. If we believe in Jesus and follow Him, we're freed from Satan's power, and we're heirs of the kingdom of God. For the first time, we're able to do something about the lifelong habits that wreck us. Because of the cross, the devil's power was broken. Through the gospel, the worst of sinners can be delivered from his domain of darkness and transferred into God's Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1:13).

Jesus further explains God's glory in John 12:32, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

There are a lot of people who use this verse as proof that, because Jesus died on the cross, every person will be drawn to saving faith in Jesus. I wish it meant that, but a review of human history—and consideration of the world around us today—shows us this is not the case. Over the years, as I've shared the gospel, only some have come to faith. Others considered it nonsense.

All in verse 32 doesn't mean all as we may understand it.

More about that next time!