The death of Jesus Christ on the cross makes it the heart of Christian worship. It was on the cross that Jesus reconciled God and man. Having reconciled us to God by His redeeming blood, He gives us the “power to become the Sons and Daughters of God.” The cross The significance of the cross elevates Christianity to a religion of love, redemption, mercy, truth, righteousness and peace. It is at the cross where the invisible war and victory of God over Satan takes place and the powers of heaven overcome hell. It is at the cross that the supernatural wins out over the natural. That is why the cross will never lose its power and why Christians find glory in the cross.
“Jesus was taken away, and He carried His cross to a place known as ‘The Skull.’ In Aramaic this place is called ‘Golgotha.’” (John 19: 16b-l7) “The skull” is the common name of the place where Jesus was crucified. It was a little knoll rounded like a bare skull and was located outside the gate and near the city of Jerusalem. It’s not by chance that Golgotha was located outside the walls of the city. The high priests cast Jesus outside of the gate and in spite of themselves, they unknowingly ministered in the preparation of God’s last sacrifice, the sacrifice for sin. And since Jesus was willing to die and take the cross upon Himself, in meekness, He became the Passover Lamb.
“Jesus, Himself, suffered outside the city gate, so His blood would make people holy,” (Hebrews 13:12).
We see Jesus taking up His cross and going to the place of curse as a condemned man. He goes to pay the debt made by mankind. Before Jesus could say, “It is finished,” the eternal punishment, the unrestrained wrath of God had to be endured and left behind. It had to happen before His death and not in the spiritual world, but in this world.
Jesus experienced the awful pain of being an outcast when He stood before the Sanhedrin, before Herod and before Pilate. Now they press the heavy cross upon His shoulders. With each step He takes, Jesus is aware that He is condemned of God; that God has forsaken Him. God drives His Son outside the city gates, the very same gates that He not long ago entered exalted while riding on a donkey. Now, He is made sin for us. He is cut off and cast out. The Lamb of God, the sacrificial Lamb has been cast outside the gates of Jerusalem by the high priests.
Jesus fulfills the types of the Old Testament
No religious ceremonies in the Old Testament were concluded unless they were accompanied with a sacrifice. God designed the sacrificial system with the intention of awakening a consciousness of sin and uncleanness. This system was God’s way of showing the possibility of obtaining the forgiveness of sin and becoming righteous before Him.
The burnt offering
The name of the burnt offering comes from the Hebrew word holah, which means “ascending.” The sacrificial animal was wholly consumed in the fire with the exception of the skin. The smoke from the offering went up towards heaven. The burnt offering symbolized total surrender to God. In Leviticus 1: 1 -17, the Lord gives Moses instructions for the community of Israel to follow when they offer sacrifices. The burnt offering burned all night long and “ascended” unto God as a sweet savor. The burnt offering had to be “perfect” and it had to be offered “willingly.”
In order for believers in the New Testament to claim the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection and before the Old Testament saints could benefit from His death, Jesus had to offer Himself wholly to God. Jesus was sinless and yet He offered Himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. This is why His blood is much more powerful and makes our consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death,” (Hebrews 9:14).
Jesus offered Himself without sin to God. He carried out God’s will with joy. The burnt offering is a sweet savor to God because it represents Jesus in His own perfections and devotion to the Father’s will, as opposed to the non-sweet savor offerings which show Jesus carrying the sins of mankind. It was His willingness and His total devotion to redeeming mankind that made His death on the cross a sweet savor unto God.
Burnt sacrificial offerings were based on possession. If a man owned a herd of cattle, he was to present a bullock. If he owned sheep or goats, he had to present the best of the flock. If a man was poor and could only present a turtle dove or pigeon, it had to be a “young pigeon,” the very best. Whatever was sacrificed had to be without blemish in order to represent the “spotless” Christ.
Giving according to possession still applies today. God gave His very best; His own spotless Son. That is why great care was given to the type or shadow. The sacrifices for the burnt offering had to be given voluntarily. God voluntarily gave His Son and Jesus voluntarily laid aside the “form of God” and took on the form of a bond slave.
“..and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us,” (Philippians 2: 5-7).
Today, knowing that God requires the very best they have, Christians are to give back accordingly. God calls for the best of their lives; their time, their money, their will, their all. And, it must be presented to Him voluntarily.
The sacrificial animals symbolize various aspects of Jesus’ redeeming character.
The Ox: demonstrated Jesus’ patient endurance as Savior (Isaiah 52:13-15), (Isaiah 52: 13-15), (Philippians 2: 5-8)
The Sheep or Ram: portrays Jesus facing death without resisting (Isaiah 53:7)
The Goat: typifies a sinner and in referring to Jesus, shows Him as the One who was “numbered” with the transgressors. (Mark 15:28)
The Turtledove or Pigeon: symbolize the mourning of innocence and portrays poverty. Jesus became poor that we might become rich. (Isaiah 38:14), (Hebrews 7:26), (Leviticus 5:7), (2 Corinthians 8:9).
The Old Testament and the New Testament
In the Old Testament, the sacrifices took place on the north side of the altar. In the New Testament Jesus was crucified on the cross on the north side of Jerusalem. In the Old Testament the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled upon the altar.
“After the bull is killed in my presence, some priests from Aaron’s family will offer its blood to me by splattering it against the four sides of the altar, (Leviticus 1:5).
After being examined under the skin to make certain it was perfect, the burnt offering was skinned and cut into pieces. The priests, representing God, placed the head and feet of the sacrifice in order on the wood and put the washed insides and the legs on the wood. The priests had to put the fire of God to consume the sacrifice, not some strange fire. God would send His own fire to consume the sacrifice as a sign of His presence. Any other fire was considered profane and God was not in it. In the New Testament, unlike the animal sacrifices that were killed by man, Jesus did not die at the hands of Satan or man. He did not die in a revolution. He willingly offered Himself a sacrifice to God.
In the Old Testament, after the sacrifice was completely consumed by fire, the ashes were gathered and placed at the East side of the altar. The priest then changed his clothing and took the ashes to a clean place.
In the New Testament, after the crucifixion, Jesus’ body was carried into a clean place. The sepulcher in the garden was a tomb cut out of a rock. It was a tomb where no person had ever been buried. It was a clean place.
“He took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in fine cloth. Then he put it in a tomb that had been cut out of solid rock and had never been used,” (Luke 23:53).
What does Jesus’ death on the cross mean for Christians today?
Christians are called to lay down their lives without reservation upon the altar of Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be ministers of the “perfect” sacrifice, Jesus, to a dying world. This calls for an outright and entire surrender of self. Christians are to willingly give themselves unreservedly to the Lord, remembering all the while that their lives are not their own, but have been bought by the price of the precious blood of Jesus. Christians belong fully and totally to Jesus Christ.
“God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God,” (1 Corinthians 6:20).