Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cross

                        A subject that has come up several times recently is the cross.  I find today (good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified((I typed this last night)) a fitting time to discuss the differences between Mormonism and Christianity in regards to the Cross.  

  Christians wear the cross to remember the great sacrifice made on a cross.  It was on the cross that the Lamb of God was sacrificed to fulfill the law.  The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) I never fully understood this passage of scripture until I better understood the Law of Moses.  For anyone who doesn't quite realize why it's so special that John recognized Jesus takes away the sins of the world, I'll elaborate a bit.  The Law of Moses requires that a sinner present an animal sacrifice a bull or goat.  There's a process that must be followed.  The problem with the sacrifice of bulls and goats is that they cannot take away sin, they only cover sin.  This had to be done anytime someone sinned, and once a year for the Nation of Israel.  The High priest would tie a rope around his ankle in the event he wasn't pure when he entered into the presence of God to give the sacrifice. If any impure person entered God's presence they would die instantly. He wore bells so that those on the other side of the veil could hear if he died and stopped moving, then they would pull him out by the rope. Hebrews 10 teaches us that the system under the Law of Moses was just a shadow of the things to come.  This had to be repeated over and over but could never provide perfect cleansing; they only covered the sins temporarily.  Jesus became the perfect sacrifice and his blood doesn't just cover sins up, it takes them away, they are forgotten.  The altar upon which the sins of the world were offered was the Cross.   
  As a young Mormon I was told the symbol of the Cross was to be shunned, Mormon's didn't wear one, and they aren't on any of the buildings.  A common answer to why Mormon's didn't wear Crosses was: "If your brother was killed with a gun, would you wear the symbol of a gun around your neck?"  Mormonism teaches that Jesus atoned for the sins of the world in the garden of Gethsemane when he sweat "great drops like blood"  Of the four gospels, only Luke records anything about blood in the garden of Gethsemane.   What was recorded was that his sweat was great like drops of blood.  This does not say that he bled, but that his sweat was LIKE great drops of blood.  Also recorded in Luke's account is that an angel was there comforting him or strengthening him.  If Jesus was paying for the price of sin in the Garden, he was receiving strength from an Angel to do it.  One thing to recognize here is the lack of information about the events in the garden and the plethora of information about the events on the cross.
  If the great price for sin was paid in the garden and the apostles originally taught this before the great apostasy as Mormonism teaches, why is there only one account for it?  The account that is given BTW is by Luke, who wasn’t there, but interviewed people who were when he wrote his gospel. Luke was very thorough in his research.  Those who were close to Jesus during his ministry didn’t include every little detail, only what they felt or the spirit told them was relevant to the mission and message of Christ.  John who was the disciple closest to Jesus barley mentions the garden at all, only to show where Jesus was when he was arrested.  John’s account in his gospel however is very informative about what happened on the Cross. 

                         Mormons claim that Jesus bled from every pore. This claim comes from Joseph Smith in a revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants chapter 19: 18, Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and Shrink-. 
           While researching this a little, I came across a blog where a girl wanted to know where in the Bible it mentions that Jesus bled from every pore, she and her friends looked all night and couldn't find anything.  I had to laugh a little, but in all honesty I'm sad for her.  I would hope that as she was searching and searching something would have clicked in her head and told her "it's not in here because it didn't happen that way"  
    I posted up about the foundation for Christian studies website earlier, and I have to admit, I check it out often.  Even the church's main website isn't as bold as Mr. Schuster.  Under the topic of Christ's Atonement, Mr. Schuster enlightens us with this:

Crucifixion was Historically Common
We can read biblical accounts of crucifixion dating back to the time of the Egyptians (Genesis 40:19) and the time of Esther. Historical records document that crucifixion was practiced among the Assyrians, Scythians, Indians, Germans, Greeks and Romans. Alexander the Great was said to have had two thousand Tyrians crucified as a consequence of their resistance following the conquest of Tyre. The physical pain of being crucified is thought to have been horrific, where often the crucified suffer death by suffocation.
While thousands have experienced the brutality of physical crucifixion, only one man has ever taken upon himself the sins of the world as Jesus Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane. The agony of this ultimate act of selfless love is described in Luke 22:42-44, where Christ's sweat is described " great drops of blood." The anguish of Christ before taking upon him the sins of the world, and the resultant pain and suffering, are clearly described in scripture. 

            Crucifixion was historically common?  I don't understand if Mr. Schuster is trying to suggest that Christians believe Jesus was the first and only to be crucified or not, but Mr. Schuster needs to read his Bible.  Genesis 40:19 says nothing about Crucifixion, it specifically mentions impalement though.  Impalement and Crucifixion are two different things, consider their definitions.  
Impale:  to pierce with a sharpened stake thrust up through the body, as for torture or punishment.
Crucify:   to put to death by nailing or binding the hands and feet to a cross.
            Crucifixion was the cruelest means by which to die.  The manner in which one would hang would cause him to suffocate, they would try and pull themselves up against the nails in the hands and feet to be able to breathe.  The Cross was a slow and painful death. That Christ took on the sins of the world upon the cross is no secret. Paul taught the Colossians that through Jesus God reconciled everything to himself by means of Christ's blood ON THE CROSS. (Col 1:20) Peter also taught that Christ paid our debt for sin ON THE CROSS in 1Pet 2:24 He personally carried our sins in his body ON THE CROSS. 
            What does the Cross mean to us? What Jesus said last on the cross: "it is finished". The debt has been paid, the work has been done and Jesus did it all. I am forever indebted to Him for what he did. I couldn't do it for myself and nothing I do in this life will make up for my sins, only the blood of Jesus. And because he did this we can be confident of our future with Him. Boldly enter into the throne of Grace as the author of the book of Hebrews puts it (Boldly! A far cry from having to tie a rope around your ankle incase you fall dead in the presence of God). We can enter boldly because the sacrifice made by Jesus, His blood on the Cross takes away our sin from the sight of God. Paul taught that we could look confidently forward to sharing God's Glory because of Faith in Jesus Christ. 
            If you were to die right now what would happen to you? Where would you go? To Heaven? Or Hell? Most people answer this question with "I don't know". The "good news" is that we can know, we can be confident of our future. The gospel is that Jesus paid our debt and made us right before God. We need to believe in him to have his Grace. As Paul puts it in Romans 10:9, we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. We can have the confidence Paul talked about. If your answer to the question is "I don't know" or, "I think I've done more good that bad, so I don't think I should go to hell" You need to really search your heart and find out if you really know Jesus, do you really believe that he is Lord? Do you believe that he paid your debt for sin and that he rose from the dead? If you don't confidently know the answer to that question you need to do something about it. 
            Jesus is Lord! He is my King! He took my punishment for sin and made me right before God so I can boldly enter into the throne of Grace! He rose from the dead and conquered sin, death and the devil! I will go straight to the feet of Jesus when I leave this world, no question about it! Not because of anything I did or will do, but because of JESUS! His grace is all I need.