The Necessity of the Cross

Bible Book: Luke  24 : 26
Subject: Cross

In the Scripture passage we’re going to look at this morning, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus. Three days had passed since the crucifixion. These two disciples were perplexed and despondent. They had utterly misunderstood the purpose for which Jesus had come into the world. Apparently they had expected him to set up an earthly kingdom and conquer the Romans, but he had been executed and their hopes had died with him. They had heard that he had risen from the dead, but they were not convinced.

As they walked along, the resurrected Jesus suddenly joined them. However, for some unexplained reason they didn’t recognize him. Perhaps they were so totally consumed with their disappointment and grief that they were blind to all else. They assumed that he was a stranger and began telling him of how their leader had been put to death and of how totally devastated they were that things had gone wrong.

And that brings us to what Jesus said to them in response. Look with me, please, at Luke 24:25-27 - and I’m reading this morning from the New American Standard translation:

“And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the

prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to

enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He

explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Notice that key word, “necessary.” It is clear that Jesus considered his death on the cross not as a tragic misfortune, but rather, a great necessity - and there were also other times when he made that same point. For example, in Matthew 16, following Simon Peter’s great confession of faith, we read these words in verse 21: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” So it was, that in prospect and well as later in retrospect, Jesus consistently regarded his death as a necessity.

I. What Did He Mean When He Spoke of the Cross as a Necessity?

Now, in what sense did he so regard it? What did he mean when he spoke of his cross as a necessity?

He certainly did not mean that he could not have escaped it, had he so desired. Indeed, quite to the contrary, Jesus stated again and again that his crucifixion was to be voluntary on his part. For instance, here are some excerpts from John 10:15, 17-18: “...I lay down my life for the sheep....No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again....”

Again, in the Garden of Gethsemene. Jesus was surrounded by a shouting, unruly mob, armed with swords and staves. The officers were there to arrest him and take him away to a farcial trial, which was certain to result in the death sentence. Simon Peter, excited and resentful at what was happening, drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant. Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the wounded man. Then Jesus spoke to Peter, and his words are recorded in Matthew 26:52-54:

“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take

the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my

Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how

then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”

Jesus was saying, “Peter, don’t you realize that I could, at the snap of a finger, perform a miracle and put this mob to flight? I have the power to avoid the cross. Yet, I shall willingly submit to this mob, because for a greater reason - which you haven’t yet understood - my coming death is a necessity!”

II. What Was the Great Reason for the Necessity of the Cross?

So, Jesus clearly had the power to escape had he so desired, yet he willingly allowed himself to be crucified - because for some great reason he regarded his death as a necessity. What was that great reason?

To understand that reason, we need to consider three profound, fundamental facts that are taught in the Scriptures:

1. Fact number one: Every last one of us is a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Every one of us has sinned in thought, in action, in word, and by omission. We not only are sinners by nature, we are also sinners by choice.

2. Fact number two: The Bible teaches that sin must be punished. There are many aspects of sin’s punishment, but the most sobering of those is stated in James 1:14-15: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

Physical death is included, but the primary emphasis in that verse is on spiritual death, which means separation from God. If a person continues to the end of this earthly existence in that lost, separated condition, he will spend eternity in that inexpressibly sad place of separation that the Bible calls hell.

3. But that brings us to fact number three: Even though God decreed that sin must be punished, he loved us and desired to save us from sin’s condemnation - and that’s why he sent Jesus, who willingly came, to die on the cross and thereby take our punishment for us. Jesus didn’t have to do it - but it was the only way man could be saved, and because Jesus was determined to save us, he looked upon the cross as a necessity. Thus do the Scriptures confront us with the profound fact of Christ’s substitutionary death.

Isaiah 53:5-6: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

Somehow, in a way beyond our comprehension, on that cross Jesus suffered all of the tortuous punishment for your sins and mine, punishment that we deserve in time and eternity, in order to provide for you and me the opportunity to be saved - that is, to be forgiven, to be given newness of life in the here and now, and then to go to heaven when we die instead of going to hell.

III. What are the Conditions for Receiving His Salvation?

But that wonderful gift salvation comes only to those who meet God’s conditions for receiving it - and those two conditions are set forth in Acts 20:21: “...repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The devil has deceived a lot of folks into thinking they’ve been saved, when in reality they have not. A lot of people have believed in Jesus in a shallow, superficial way, and they’ve joined some church or other, and perhaps been sprinkled or immersed in the water, and they look back on that and say to themselves, “I must be o.k. - I made a profession of faith at one time in my life.”

But it is fearfully possible to profess faith, and yet not possess faith - that is, not possess true, Biblical faith - saving faith. The real test of true, saving faith is not what happened at some time in the past; the real test of true, saving faith is what’s happening in your life now!”

True, saving faith involves turning from your sinful ways, and surrendering yourself lock, stock and barrel to the living Son of God - and that kind of faith results in obedience to the Lord. It results in being true to him, in your moral standards, in your church relationship, and in your dealings with other people. Jesus said, in Matthew 7:20, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” In 1 John 2:4, 9 we read: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him....He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Jesus said, in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

The person who has truly been saved loves God, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.”

The song-writer characterized the love of God like this: “While he was on the cross, I was on his mind.” It is not over-dramatization, it is not overstatement, to say that Jesus Christ suffered indignity, pain and death on that cross for you - personally, specifically.

The Bible says, in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Someone says, “But, preacher, that doesn’t speak of me personally - that speaks about the whole world.” Yes, but the world is simply the sum total of the individual people who live on this globe - and you are one of those individuals!

God, with his foreknowledge, many centuries ago looked down through the corridors of time and knew you personally before you were ever born. He knew all about you then, just as he does now. The Bible says that even the hairs on your head are numbered. He loved you specifically, individually, and he loves you still. As a friend of mine expressed it, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it in a prominent place.” That’s why Jesus considered the cross a necessity - that’s why he came willingly to die for you - and for me, and for every individual on the earth!

If you’ve never truly been saved, I want to challenge you to be saved this very morning.

In light of the wonderful love that God has shown for you, I want to challenge you to love him back.

Dr. R. G. Lee told the story of a mother, back in the days of the early west, crossing a prairie with her baby in her arms. As she made her way along, she saw a cloud of smoke in the distance - small at first, but rapidly growing in size and intensity, and it was headed her way. She realized that it was a prairie fire. She knew there was no escape, because it was traveling toward her with fierce speed. She quickly knelt down, frantically dug a hole in the earth, and laid her baby in the hole - then, as the roaring flames approached, she threw herself across that hole. In a moment it was all over. Later her lifeless, charred body was found, still lying over that hole in the ground - but when they removed her body, her baby was alive. Her sacrifice had saved that precious child from a fiery death.

In like manner, Christ died in order that you and I might be saved from the burning flames of hell.

The question I want to ask you is this: What are you going to do about his sacrifice? Are you going to ignore it? Are you going to just take it for granted? Or, are you going to repent of your sins and say, “Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me. By faith I’m surrendering my life to you. I’m asking you to come into my heart, into my life, and mold me into what you want me to be. Whatever I have or have not done in the past, I want to be sure today that it’s settled - so right here and right now, I’m telling you, Lord Jesus, that I’m sorry for my sins and I’m trusting you and you alone to save me. I’m going to make a public, unashamed profession now of my faith in you, I’m going to declare publicly here and now my desire to be baptized in obedience to your command, I’m going to unite with your church right here and right now - and Lord, from this point forward, by your help and your grace I’m going to live for you. I’m going to be faithful to your church, I’m going to seek to obey your commands, and I’m going to seek to love other people as you’d have me to.”

The song-writer had it right when he said:

When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God;

All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.[i]


[i] Isaac Watts, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707.