The Centrality of the Cross (Chapter 1)

“From Jesus’ youth, indeed even from his birth, the cross cast its shadow ahead of him. His death was central to his mission.
     ~ JOHN STOTT, The Cross of ChristThe_Shadow_of_Death_Holman_Hunt

And so from page one onward, John Stott writes of the cross in The Cross of Christ. The-Cross-of-Christ-by-John-Stott

Most religions have a symbol. The symbol of Christianity settled into the crucifix, the cruel object upon which Jesus died.

But was the cross the center of Jesus’ perspective? Stott answers yes.

We read in the gospels how Jesus often alluded to his own death.

  • He obviously knew the prophecies written about the Messiah included his death.
  • He saw the hostility towards him from the Jewish leaders. 
  • He knew the Father had willed his sacrifice, and he also knew he would be obedient to that will.

Jesus came to give his life away. His death was the hour for which he was purposed (John 12:23-28).

The writers of the Gospels all bear witness to it.

[They] show that they understand this by the disproportionate amount of space which they give to the story of his last few days on earth, his death and resurrection.

It occupies between a third and a quarter of the three Synoptic Gospels, while John’s Gospel has justly been described as having two parts, “the book of the signs” and “the book of the Passion,” since John spends an almost equal amount of time on each.

The book of Acts also recounts the story of the death and resurrection. And the three major writers of the epistles (Paul, Peter, John), write prolifically of it.

In the last book, Revelation, John introduces Jesus as “the first-born from the dead” (Rev 1:5). He writes most consistently of Jesus as “the Lamb,” the sacrifice by whose blood we are set free. 

Do we do it justice? Do we keep the cross as central to our faith as it deserves?

I look forward to reading more of The Cross of Christ in light of Scripture as I examine my own priorities.

The four sections of Stott’s book are:

  • Approaching the Cross
  • The Heart of the Cross
  • The Achievement of the Cross
  • Living under the Cross

If you’d like to read along, please do so! I’m reading with the group at Challies, one chapter a week, starting now. It promises to be quite insightful.

* * *

How central do you keep the cross in your faith?

More about Chapter 1 at Challies

More summaries from The Cross of Christ

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