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When archaeologists search for ancient Christian sites, they always look for a cross drawn on a wall, cut into stone, or even designed into the layout of a place.   From the earliest chapters of Christian history, the cross, the instrument of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, has emerged as the quintessential emblem of the faith. It stands not merely as a symbol carved in wood or eternally inscribed upon the believer’s heart but as the cornerstone and defining essence of what it means to follow Christ.  The cross, in its profound simplicity and depth, encapsulates the central narrative of Christianity, bridging heaven and earth and inviting a reflection on sacrifice, redemption, and the transformative power of love.   

” For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2).   

The cross is certainly the Symbol of Salvation for Christians who believe in His death and resurrection, but to the Jews, the Cross is a stumbling block.  

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  ( 1 Cor 1:18-24) 

From a Jewish perspective, Jesus did not fit the Messiah 

Restoration of Israel and Rebuilding the Temple

“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy when my sanctuary is among them forever.” Ezekiel 37:24-28.

This scripture outlines a vision of a united Israel under a Davidic ruler, emphasizing peace, holiness, and the rebuilding of the Temple and, ultimately, the purist Jewish Spiritual Order.  The Pharisees, like many Jews of the time, expected a messianic figure who would be a political and military leader, liberating Israel from Roman occupation and restoring it to glory.  

Gathering of the Exiles

Isaiah 43:5-6 (NIV) speaks to the gathering of the Jewish people from all over the world, a task associated with the messianic age: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” 

Worldwide Peace

Isaiah 2:4 (NIV) describes an era of peace, a hallmark of the messianic age, where nations will no longer engage in warfare:  “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

A Human Leader

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (NIV) portrays the Messiah as a righteous descendant of David, emphasizing justice and righteousness in the land, not a divine being or a savior who dies for sins: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” Jeremiah 23:5-6. 

A critical point of contention was Jesus’ claim to divinity or His close association with God, which the Pharisees considered blasphemy. An example is Jesus’ statement in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” which led to accusations of blasphemy (John 10:33). The charge of blasphemy is rooted in the Jewish understanding of God’s uniqueness and indivisibility, based on scriptures like Deuteronomy 6:4.  

The Suffering Messiah 

Isaiah 53, frequently referred to as the “Forbidden Chapter,” stands at the heart of considerable debate. This controversy exists not only between Judaism and Christianity but also within the Jewish community itself. Before the arrival of Christ, Jewish scholars and teachers uniformly interpreted Isaiah 53 as a messianic prophecy. However, the emergence and spread of the Christian Gospel introduced a contentious element to this chapter’s interpretation within Judaism, due to its striking parallels to the life and mission of Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. Eitan Bar, a scholar from Israel with a Jewish background, notes:

The 17th-century Jewish historian, Raphael Levi, admitted that long ago the rabbis used to read Isaiah 53 in synagogues, but after the chapter caused “arguments and great confusion” the rabbis decided that the simplest thing would be to just take that prophecy out of the Haftarah1 readings in synagogues. That’s why today when we read Isaiah 52, we stop in the middle of the chapter, and the week after, we jump straight to Isaiah 54.2 [1]

—Eitan Bar

The Jewish worldview did not permit any notion that God could be seen as a suffering King serving humanity. For Instance, Hugh Fogelman’s book Christianity Uncovered: Viewed Through Open Eyes tries to argue 12 points on why Isaiah 53 refers to Israel, not Jesus.  He accuses Christians of being guilty of Jewish Identity Theft.  R. L. Solberg brilliantly refutes these arguments in a lengthy exegesis of Isaiah 53.  Isaiah 53 is the most descriptive and clear prophecy and vision of Jesus’ Human Incarnation, Innocent Crucifixion, Resurrection and Eternal Judgement.  John Mc Arthur calls this chapter the 5th good news gospel testimony of the atonement Jesus completed for us on the cross![2]

The Day of Atonement 

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. (Lev 16:29-34). Sin is a disconnection from God.  As human beings, we tend to quickly become disconnected from knowing ourselves, our bodies or the loved ones we adore.  

To use an example we can all relate to, our bodies communicate with us constantly through hunger, fatigue, pain, and pleasure, signalling our needs, limits, and capacities. To be connected with our body is to understand this language and respond to its needs promptly and appropriately.  

In the same way, we become disconnected from God; we do not hear His voice, care for His will, or understand His statutes and instructions.  We do this all the time with the people we say we love: Husbands and wives become blind to each other’s needs and call for intimacy.  Children disobey their parents.  Parents do not understand their children.  SIN is a GREAT DISCONNECT! 

In the OT the day of atonement was the means by which man could reconnect to God.  Laundry soap wasn’t developed until the Industrial Age, and bleach wasn’t invented until the late 18th century. For most of human history, clothing was “washed” but wasn’t really “cleaned.” That meant stains and smudges on garments never really went away. This image serves as a true picture of the permanence of sin’s stain and how it’s almost impossible to remove.  

Guilt and shame are the most difficult inner stains of the heart, most difficult to remove.  Many religions offer their methods to try to solve this deeply rooted problem, particularly trying to redeem our tendency to make the same mistakes repeatedly, leading to an even greater disconnect of feeling lost.   

Jesus the Lamb

John was one of the first disciples to recognise Jesus as the Lamb of God. Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (1 John 1:35) 

Like A Lamb He Did Not Resist His Lot  

“But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’” (Matthew 26:63)

“When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.” (Matthew 27:12)

“But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.” (Matthew 27:14)

“But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (Mark 14:61)

“But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” (Mark 15:5)

“He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (Luke 23:9)

“and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (John 19:9)

Jesus REDEEMED us of our SINS

How difficult this must have been for Jesus, not to justify, or defend His innocence!! 

knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet 1:18-19) 

The Repulsiveness of the Crucifixion 

Firstly, humans tend to forget easily, and secondly, only a profoundly harsh act can underscore the gravity of sins humans are capable of. Many progressives question the crucifixion, asking, “How could a supremely loving God allow His own Son to suffer and die?” If you ask any loving parent if they know that the only way to save their child’s life is to suffer great loss, the answer would come immediately: we will do, give, and sacrifice anything if it could save our child.  This is what moved the Father to pay the ultimate price – His own life to save His child.  “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) 

The severity of the cross speaks of the gravity and cruelty of our sinful condition.  For instance, what can be more cruel than to betray the one whose heart you hold in your hand in holy matrimony by starting an affair and committing adultery? Think of the brutality of committing murder! The devastation of theft and corruption.  The pain of finding out your best friend lied to you or has not covered your vulnerability. SIN DESTROYS LIVES!!  Oh the hellish darkness of selfish, greed, self-indulgence, narcissistic, egotistical self-righteousness! Even whole nations are sometimes captured under the spell of the unrighteous, unjust dictatorship of pure malevolence! 

The curse of sin 

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  (Gal 3:13-14). Not only does sin have severe consequences for the people around us, but also for ourselves. 

Sin is CURSED by GOD  

Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.  (Deut 11:26-28) 

Falling Short 

For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  (Rom 3:22-26).

We all love perfection. The perfect kick of the rugby ball in the final of a game made our team win, as happened in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  The perfections of a symphonic musical, ballet or opera! The perfect cake! The Perfect house! 

The reality is that we all fall short! Even those who get perfect right more times than others, becoming Nobel prize winners or Olympic gold medallists, miss the mark of perfection in other areas! 

The Power of the Cross

The CROSS is a symbol of God’s power released to us who believe in receiving His right standard of living. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”  (Rom 1:16) 

Through our faith in His PERFECT Sacrifice for our sins, we receive His power to no longer remain slaves of sin but receive a whole new consciousness and identity.  

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12) 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor 5:17)

The CROSS is not only an emblem of His sacrifice, but also an emblem of my victory over sin!  

Life Is In The Blood

Blood plays a critical role in the human body, serving as the primary medium for transportation, regulation, and protection. It delivers oxygen from the lungs to tissues, removes carbon dioxide for exhalation, and transports nutrients from the digestive system to cells throughout the body. Blood also carries waste products to the kidneys for elimination, regulates body temperature and pH levels, and supports the immune system by transporting white blood cells to combat pathogens. Furthermore, it facilitates wound healing through clotting mechanisms and platelets, highlighting its essential role in maintaining health and homeostasis.

The Significance of Blood in the Old Testament: Leviticus 17:11 states, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”

The Prophecy of the Messiah’s Sacrifice: Isaiah 53:5 prophesies the suffering of Christ and its purpose: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”

The Fulfillment through Jesus’ Sacrifice: Hebrews 9:22 reiterates the necessity of blood for forgiveness, stating, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

The Ultimate Sacrifice of Jesus: Hebrews 10:10-12 explains the sufficiency and finality of Christ’s sacrifice: “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.”

The Power of Jesus’ Blood for Believers: 1 Peter 1:18-19 highlights the preciousness of Christ’s sacrifice: “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Bear Your Cross

In conclusion, the cross also speaks to the greatest of all questions of life: the meaning of life.  Bearing our cross… is the key to finding your life and one of significance! “Deny self, take up your cross, and follow me”Mat 16:24. 

“The purpose of life is to find the largest burden you can bear, and bearing it” Jordan B Peterson.  

Jordan B. Peterson champions the transformative power of assuming responsibility, articulating a compelling vision where personal growth begins with confronting one’s own challenges. He posits that by “bearing your cross” and focusing first on self-improvement, individuals can ripple positive changes outward—from their immediate environment to broader societal levels.

Jesus Christ’s entire existence is centred around redemption—not just through His death and resurrection but also through His teachings and life. He took on the challenge of rectifying a problem He didn’t cause. This mirrors the story of Nehemiah, who, although he had a secure job as the king’s cupbearer, chose to leave his comfort zone to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls using his own resources (Nehemiah 2:4-5).

Similarly, Joseph turned his brothers’ betrayal into a redemption story. Despite being sold into slavery by his own siblings, he rose to become Egypt’s prime minister, eventually saving his family and the entire nation of Israel from famine. This act of saving Israel prefigures the salvation Jesus offers all humanity (Genesis 45:4-8).

Throughout the Bible, we see many instances where individuals stepped into roles of redemption, pointing us toward the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ. His life, death, and resurrection offer the most profound example of redemption—He repaired the broken relationship between humanity and God, something only He could do (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Each of these stories underscores the powerful theme of redemption woven throughout Scripture. They remind us that God often uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways to bring about His redemptive plans.

[1] The Haftarah reading follows the Torah reading on each Sabbath and on Jewish festivals and fast days. Typically, the haftarah is thematically linked to the parasha (Torah Portion) that precedes it. The haftarah is sung in a chant (known as “trope” in Yiddish or “Cantillation” in English). 

[2] John C. Arthur. The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament