April 14, 2017
The Shadow of the Cross
By Skip Heitzig
For about the last 2,000 years, Christians have referred to the week before Easter as Holy Week. I like to think of it as the Super Bowl for believers. It's when we shift our focus to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins, the greatest act of love ever demonstrated. One of the things that strikes me about this is that the cross was always God's plan—from the very beginning.
This weekend, I encourage you to make time to consider the cross, the focal point of God throughout all of history. The cross was not some divine oops that happened that threw off God's plans. The shadow of the cross was evident throughout the life of Jesus Christ, all the way back, in fact, to the beginning of time. As Revelation 13:8 tells us, Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
Jesus Himself predicted His death. We don't have time to look at each instance in the Scriptures where it happened, but it's clear reading the Gospels that Jesus lived His life in view of His death; it was His constant companion. Can you imagine living with that? "Now my soul is troubled," Jesus said in John 12:27, "And what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour." The whole focus of Jesus' life was the cross—His death.
Jesus' death was even predicted in the events surrounding His birth. The angel that appeared to Joseph in a dream said, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21), speaking of the cross. Later on when the magi came with gifts, they brought gold, fitting for a king, and frankincense, the spice of the priesthood, signifying that Jesus would one day rule as King and also be our Great High Priest. But the third gift, myrrh, was a bit odd—it was used as embalming fluid in ancient times. It foreshadowed why Jesus had come: to die.
The shadow of the cross extended all the way back into the Old Testament as well. The prophets themselves predicted the suffering and death of Christ. As Jesus said, the events of His betrayal, beating, mocking, and trial were all done "that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled" (Matthew 26:56).
And then there's Revelation 13:8, which takes us even further back, before the life of Christ, before the birth of Christ, before the prophets, and before creation itself. Before Jesus ever came to this earth, when He was in glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He knew the purpose for which He was coming. He knew about it in advance. Again, the cross was not some plan B to God.
Maybe you're thinking, Skip, why are you making such a big issue of this? Well, I'm making a big issue of it because God made a big issue of it. Look at Ephesians 1:4: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." God chose you before He created the world—but the only way He could purchase you was with His Son. You were chosen before the foundation, thus He was slain from the foundation.
He died for me. He died for you. That's the irreducible minimum, isn't it? From a human perspective, the cross was the worst thing that ever happened. But from a divine perspective, it was the best thing that ever happened, because it means forgiveness for you and me. My prayer is that the shadow of the cross will fall on you today and that you will allow that shadow to impact your life and remind you that God has had you in His mind from eternity past.
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