I’ve just finished a book called ‘The Cross of Christ’ written by John R.W. Stott. Stott has died now (1921-2011), but in his time, he was probably one of the most influential, evangelical thinkers around, and without doubt has had a huge impact on many other famous Christian speakers and teachers of his day and beyond. This book is in fact understood to be the seminal work on the cross of Christ, which is why I bought it to have a read as an on-going thing that I do to develop more in my ministry. It is 342 pages long of fine print and it has taken me a few months on and off to read through it!
What struck me most about the book, apart from the subject matter of course, was that anyone could write that many words over so many pages on the one topic! I kept thinking just how bright he had been and how much he had known to be able to keep writing chapter after chapter on the work of the cross. Yes, there were places which took a great deal more attention and focus than in others, but no matter where I was in the book, there were always amazing snippets; little gems like precious stones where I felt myself saying ‘ah hah’.
The beauty of it all is though, that although what was written by Stott was deeply profound and is indeed an extraordinary book, none of us needs to have multiple degrees in theology to understand the cross. In its very complexity theologically, it is also crystal clear to all in its simplicity. That’s partly why God chose it I imagine.
For on that place of execution where death was the guaranteed outcome, God came into our midst having humbled Himself and taken on the form of a man, and placed Himself there. It wasn’t by accident or man’s grand design, but was the very place where God chose to put the cost of our sin on display for all to see, by He Himself who by His own will, became our substitution. He took our place so that the curse of the law which pronounced a curse upon us all (Gal 3:10) could be reversed by Jesus becoming that curse “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,” Gal 3:13. It’s what is called ‘The Great Exchange’. It’s simple on the one hand, but beyond complex on the other; it was a place of death on one hand, but in God’s hands has become a place of life and that eternal.