At the risk of a little heresy, I want to suggest that the cross of Jesus has more to do with freedom than with forgiveness. Bear with me for a second while I try my best to explain.
Jesus came announcing that the
So when Jesus came proclaiming that the
Similarly, when a woman who was called “a sinner” cleaned Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears and anointed them with ointment, Jesus told his Pharisee host that her sins had been forgiven (past tense), and said to her, “Your sins are forgiven,” (present tense, current status) (Luke 7:48)
God had forgiven, just like he had done so many times before. The book of Judges records a repeated pattern of sin/judgment/repentance/forgiveness. So the issue isn’t so much forgiveness as breaking the cycle. Sin had a power over humanity that seemingly couldn’t be broken. As Paul puts it, we were slaves to sin, which leads to death (Romans 6:16).
The cross was Jesus subjecting himself to the forces of sin and death—the domination systems of our world which use violence, cruelty, and torture to lead people into lifelong subjection. These domination systems—in Jesus’ day the Roman Empire, Herod’s complicity with the Romans, and the corrupt
At the cross, Jesus exposed these forces for who they really are, and also exposed their impotence in the face of a loving, merciful, and forgiving Father. The cross defeated the forces of sin, and the resurrection defeated the forces of death. In their defeat, we became free. Forgiven, yes, but not just forgiven from sin, but freed from the power of sin and death. Once again, as Paul puts it, “But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)
We sin still, and God forgives us, but the cross broke the power that sin and death had over us. To paraphrase author/speaker Shane Claiborne, Jesus didn’t come so much to make bad people good as to make dead people alive.
To make dead people alive. That is the power of the cross.
© 2009 by Larry L. Eubanks