OAK PARK, Ill. (BP)–In order to behold the many facets of truth that shine outward from Calvary, Christians must behold the cross from various perspectives, Ray Pritchard writes in his new book “In the Shadow of the Cross.”
Pritchard is senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill., and a frequent guest on the Moody Radio Network program, “Primetime America.” He co-authored with the late Bob Briner the Broadman & Holman titles “Leadership Lessons of Jesus” and “More Leadership Lessons of Jesus.”
Part one of his latest book deals with the seven statements Jesus made on the cross.
“Since Jesus knew he was dying, his last words convey a special meaning to us,” Pritchard writes.
Part two investigates the cross from seven distinct points of view: what it meant to God, Christ, Satan, the world, the church, the struggle against sin and in heaven.
Beginning with Jesus’ first words on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” Pritchard offers a poignant reminder of why Christians are called to forgive even those who have done the unforgivable. He continues with the last-second salvation of the thief on the cross, a man he describes as one who missed all the outward signs of Jesus’ kingship, yet believed.
With the words, “I tell you the truth. Today, you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus promised the thief the same immediate, personal and heavenly salvation He offers believers today. Jesus’ next words, recorded in John 19:26-27, are nothing short of the final words of a family man, Prichard writes. His concern and care for His earthly mother are a lesson on a Christian’s obligation to care for and honor his or her parents as well.
The forsaken Christ then utters the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:45-46)” Describing the historical event with eternal implications, Pritchard discusses the idea of God turning away from the sin of the world that was borne by Jesus. When God did that, Jesus was alone, Pritchard explains, adding that Christians must never minimize the horror of human sin or the cost of their salvation.
“I thirst,” the only statement that deals with Jesus’ physical suffering, offers a reminder that suffering does not necessarily mean a person is out of God’s will.
The work of salvation was complete when Jesus uttered, “It is finished.” A person’s only option is to accept or reject salvation, Pritchard writes.
Jesus’ final words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” signify the restoration of the relationship between Christ and God. In Matthew 27 Jesus uses the phrase, “My God,” and the plan of salvation is fulfilled. His spirit is returning home. It is nothing short of a model of how His followers should approach death and reunion with the Father.
As Pritchard continues to challenge Christians to see the cross in a new perspective and ponder its deeper meaning, he views the cross from a variety of standpoints:
— What the cross meant to God: a turning away of His wrath, a demonstration of His justice, an outpouring of His grace.
— What the cross meant to Jesus: He became sin for all humans.
— What the cross meant to Satan: he was disarmed, disgraced and defeated.
— What the cross means to the world: a symbol of shame and a symbol of salvation.
— What the cross means to the church: the cross Christians carry, boast in and preach.
— What the cross means to sin: unity in Christ and crucifixion of the old self.
— What the cross means in heaven: it is a real place where Christ’s victory is celebrated without end, the vision of which gives Christians hope to face the difficulties of life.
“It is the cross that saves us, that changes us, the cross that gives us hope. And one day when we see Jesus, we will bow before him, seeing in his hands and feet the very marks of his death that gave us life. That day is not yet. Until then, we linger at the foot of the cross where we behold the wonder and mystery of the Lamb who died for us,” Pritchard concludes.