The True Meaning of the Cross


August 21, 2016

A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.

Mark 15:33-39

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”


We return, again, to the cross of Jesus Christ this week so we can explore more fully what it means for us. While no one reflection like this can explore the depth of what the cross means, we will look at three verses from the New Testament which help to explain the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ for us.

First, God condemns sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:3)

Jesus Christ dies in our place—we call this substitutionary atonement. God’s wrath is being poured out on the sins which Jesus bore. God is angry that sin has marred his creation, exploited his grand purposes for us, and broken our relationship with him and with others. In that sense, God pours out his wrath against sin and puts it to death in the flesh of Jesus. In the cross, all the sins of the whole human race are being focused and borne by Jesus Christ, the One True Israelite who stands as our Suffering Servant.

Second, He dies to destroy him who holds the power of death, i.e. the devil. (Heb. 2:14)

Jesus not only bears our sins and dies in our place as a substitutionary atonement, but he also acts cosmically to destroy the source of all sin, namely the Devil and to overturn the power of death itself. Evil is not just some vague mist that blows across our world or the collective influence of societal structures, etc. Evil is embodied, and the rule of evil is extended and advanced through real personalities, principalities and powers. On the cross, Christ personally confronted the powers of this dark world. Jesus came not just to defeat the idea of evil or even subdue our capacity to sin in our own lives, but to defeat and to destroy Satan. In defeating Satan, Jesus also broke the power of death over us.

Third, it is in the face of the crucified that we see the true glory of God, which is to show mercy. (John 17:2)

In the cross we see the true glory of God. This is why Jesus declares at the Last Super in the High Priestly prayer, “Father, the hour has come, glorify your Son” (John 17:2). God’s greatest glory is revealed, not through a demonstration of outward power, but the deeper power of humility, vulnerability, yea, even the weakness of the cross. Paul says that the cross is a stumbling block to Jews, foolishness to the Greeks, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God unto salvation.

What wondrous love is this? It will take eternity to fully explore the great mystery of our redemption. But, somehow, in this mystery, He has borne our sins, He has broken the power of Satan, and He has revealed unto us the greatest glimpse of His glory. How do we respond to this great mystery? The early Christians knew of no other way to sum it up than to call their message to the world the “gospel.” The word “gospel” means “good news.” This is the good news which is transforming the world!


1. Have you paused to really reflect on what the death of Jesus Christ means for you?

2. What are some practical ways you can share this good news with someone this week who really needs to know it?


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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.


Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.