Series Introduction: Welcome to seven meditations on the cross. Lent, which leads into Easter Sunday, is a traditional time when many Christians clear extra special space in their lives for focusing in various ways on the suffering and passion of Christ. On the one hand, we ought to be at the foot of the cross every day of our lives. Yet, on the other, Lent is a time to go much deeper into what the cross of Christ means for us.
What is the cross? The cross is what God has done for us. It is his finished work on our behalf. It is our salvation. It is where his Son died in our place and atoned for all our sin. It is “where” God meets us and forgives us now and forever. It is the means through which God blesses us and reconciles us to himself. It is the means through which God will fully renew us and all creation. This is the cross!
The cross is everything to us as Christians. It is not merely two blood stained pieces of rough timber fixed together, but stands for the One who died on it for you and me.
Throughout this Lent Series we are going to meditate, just as we are now, on the cross. We are going to look at several aspects of the cross, drawing from several Bible passages. It’s going to be a long conversation, it’s going to be a journey together as we learn to see and follow Jesus through what he has done for us (Luke 9:18-27).
Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
To begin meditation #1 read Galatians 1:3-5.
 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(If you do not have a Bible of your own you can access it free online with Bible Gateway. I use the English Standard Version, abbreviated as ESV.)
First, we have to ponder our need for the cross. For if we do not see our need for the cross then we are not going to be able to ponder the actual truth of the cross. As the Apostle Paul taught, either the cross will seem like a totally baffling idea, as to the unbelieving Jew, or a really bad idea, as to the unbelieving Gentile.
Or, maybe we’re the spiritual and mystical type who see the cross as a beautiful human achievement of self sacrifice for others that should inspire us to be more giving and more loving humans. Yes, we are to walk as Jesus walked, to take up our crosses daily, but, as we shall see, this sentiment in itself is an inversion of the message of the cross.
Therefore, we must first see our need of the cross if we are going to meditate properly on the cross, lest our untethered imaginations take us in contrary directions. This is, so to speak, the “crossroad” for us. For Paul also said, ‘Christ is an aroma of life to those who are being saved and an aroma of death to those who are perishing.’ A right understanding of the cross and our submission to that will determine how we see the cross.
Galatians 1:3-5 is one of the many scriptural paradigms I tend to go to for reminding myself of the purpose of the cross of Christ and my need for the cross of Christ.
What is our need? 1:4a says we need our sins removed. As the ancient prophet, Isaiah spoke:
Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Yes, we are a thoroughly sinful people (Mark 7:20-23, Romans 1:28-32, 3:23), and the only way to take away our sin before God is the cross (John 1:29, Romans 6:23).
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Then there is the benefit of coming to the cross for forgiveness in 1:4b, which is deliverance from this present evil age.
The world is not headed in a good direction. The reality is that we are all confined by God to our fallen, darkening, and passing world (Galatians 3:22). This means that each one of us is not only conceived and born in sin but we readily choose a life of sin, and for this we are imprisoned by God in this present evil age without hope in and of ourselves of knowing anything more.
Yet, God gave us over to this confinement in the hope that we might come to our senses, that we might wake up to our true predicament and trajectory, that we might humble ourselves, and come to Jesus, who, by his cross, is the one way out of our divine confinement.
Matthew 1:21-23 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us” (Revelation 21:3-4).
The good news, according to 1:4c, is that this is what God wants for you and me. This is what God desires for us. This is his will for us. This is what the cross is about.
The history of redemption, from the creation of Adam and Eve to Israel’s return from exile in the new creation, centers on God’s supreme desire to dwell with humans as his glorious image-bearers and to glorify himself through that dwelling. But the fall inhibits God’s program since a holy God is unable to dwell in the presence of sin. Humanity must be delivered from its plight, and sin eradicated from all creation. Christ’s death and resurrection do just that. (Beale and Gladd, The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament, 252.)
God is not out to get you or me. Rather, he desires all of us to come to repentance and so enter into blessed fellowship with him and he with us (Ezekiel 18:32, 2 Peter 3:9).
Second, 1:3 further says there is present and continual blessing at the cross. When we come to stand in Christ, through the cross, we are saturated by and covered with the abounding and everlasting grace and peace of God throughout this hard life.
There is no other way a part from the cross of Christ to attain such grace and peace for God is perfectly holy, without an ounce of darkness in him at all (1 John 1:5, Colossians 1:21-23). A part from the cross of Christ he will not pardon you, me, or anyone, much less pour out his grace and peace on us. So let us come to him through the cross!
Third, when we see our need of the cross, when we behold what Jesus did for us, when we are saved by his cross, once we have been saturated and covered with God’s grace and peace, 1:5 says we are going to praise and worship! What we then discover is that worship of our Triune God is absolutely the best thing ever for us! Right worship is true joy in the depths of our souls that cannot be taken away. It is what we are meant for. And the cross brings us back to that. Amen.
Conclusion: Now that we have been reminded of our need for the cross—quite possibly some of you are, for the first time, coming to feel your need of the cross, and if you are then—I encourage you to join with Jesus’ church in person and participate in the ordinance Jesus established for us, communion (a.k.a. The Lord’s Supper, The Lord’s Table, The Eucharist), which is our clearest reminder of our sole need for the cross till Jesus returns for us (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Hebrews 9:28).