Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have made this statement about Christ,

“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him”.

There was no greater man than Christ and there was no greater event in his life than his death on the cross, which gave way to his resurrection. What exactly happened on the cross on that fateful Good Friday? It was certainly much more that a man dying on the cross. John Stott in his book, ‘The cross of Christ’ draws on four images that help us to understand four different concepts that portray the miracle on the cross.

  1. Propitiation: The meaning of the term is appeasement of God’s wrath. The picture is that of a temple where a sacrifice of an animal is made for satisfying the wrath of God. Man has gone so far away from God with his sins that divine justice demands he die for them. The only way for him to escape death and for God’s divine wrath to be turned away and to be satisfied is for a sacrifice to be made on his behalf. Jesus became that sacrifice on the cross.
  1. Justification: The term means to be declared righteous, despite being in the wrong. The picture is that of the courtroom where a condemned man is standing before the judge awaiting his sentence. Man finds himself in that position, yet just on the verge of being sent to the gallows, Jesus presents himself on his behalf and declares that He has already met the sentence for the condemned man. The judge goes on to declare that we have been justified because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross. In Romans 3, Paul captures the essence of both these principles and the next,

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; –(Romans 3:23-25).

  1. Redemption: The term refers to an exchange. The picture is that of a market place where like in the olden days, an abhorrent slave trade is in full swing. The owner of the slave declares a huge price for the slave. And while prospective buyers mull, Jesus appears on the scene, pays the price with his blood on the cross and then sets the slave free. Man has been redeemed by his blood and can move from a life of bondage to one of freedom. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, –” (Galatians 3:13)
  1. Reconciliation: The term refers to making peace with one who is estranged. The picture is that of a family house, where a father forgives his estranged son, who wandered away and now has returned. The blood of Jesus on the cross makes it possible for forgiveness to flow out from God and for man to be reconciled back to God. ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them’. (2Corinthians 5:19)

All pictures are related and together give us a picture of the comprehensive miracle that was accomplished on the cross. No greater event has unfolded in the history than the cross and no greater need of man has been met, but by the cross.


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