I want to make a list of some of the different things that Christ accomplished on the cross. It seems to be the tendency of different denominations and time periods to focus more on one, and extol the magnitude of the accomplishment and its implications. However, I believe that great adoration and glory is found not just in the depth of what He did, but in recognition of the breadth of Christ’s accomplishments as well. I attempted to think of distinct achievements, not just different implications of the same achievement. I think if we are to relate these together to a single overarching accomplishment, it would be to glorify God. This is not an exclusive list, just 10 things I thought of, in no particular order, that perhaps you might not have considered before:
- He took our place for our sins, as a substitutionary atonement, providing legal justification before the Father, satisfying His wrath so that we might be forgiven. This is a major focus of modern protestantism, and for good reasons, the implications of this accomplishment are indeed truly life changing for us.
- He ransomed us. Matthew 20:28 (and Mark 10:45, 1 Tit 2:6) says he gave his life as a ransom. It is important to note that a ransom is very different than the act of appeasing God’s wrath, as a ransom is paid not to the rescuer (God), but to the captor, which is Satan. Christ’s act of ransoming us was the focus of CS Lewis’s Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Aslan offered himself as a ransom directly to the White Witch.
- He defeated Satan, triumphed over the powers (Col 2:15, Heb 2:14, 1 John 3:8). Jesus triumphed over Satan on the cross. As Hebrews says, He ‘destroy[ed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil’. This is often known as “Christus Victor” (Christ is victorious). It is believed that this (or ransom) was the primary focus of the early church.
- He perfected obedience, sacrificially submitting to the Father (Luke 22:42), pleasing and glorifying the Father (Isaiah 53:10). It is worth noting that this accomplishment has nothing (directly anyway) to do with us, it is purely an act of love and honor directly between the Son and the Father. While we naturally tend to be most interested in what Jesus did that affects us, this act stands above us, demonstrating that not everything God does is for our sake.
- He satisfied and redefined justice. The natural idea of justice, that someone should be punished for their own crimes, was certainly not demonstrated at the cross, where an innocent man was crucified for the crimes of others. At the cross, Christ revolutionized how we view and understand justice, defining justice, the foundation of His throne (Psalms 89:14), being a justice focused on bringing restoration and freedom, rather than retribution.
- He became the scapegoat, thus undermining the legitimacy of scapegoating in society. Leviticus 16 talks about the Azazel sacrifice, and Christ fulfilled the sacrificial system with His death. However, scapegoating represents a unique sacrificial act. Rene Girard has explored the implications that this has on society, showing how we grow in conflict, and eventually content ourselves by finding individual(s) that can be blamed for the evils that permeate our society (without actually dealing with the real problems). Christ took on the role of the scapegoat, bringing peace, but also subverted the practice, as the ultimate antithesis of a deserving scapegoat, forcing us to face the real issues (and in doing so, this actually led modern societies to be far more peaceful than ancient societies).
- He reconciled all things to himself (Col 1:20, 2 Cor 5:18), at the cross, to make peace between God and us, between different peoples (Eph 2:14), for the redemption of His creation. He tore the veil (Matt 27:51), giving us direct access to the throne of God.
- He made manifestly visible the impact of our sins (1 Pet 2:24). Our transgressions are not evil just by some random arbitrary decree of God, but because they have a real, painful impact on others. Christ took these sins upon himself, visibly demonstrated the pain and consequence that our sins have had on others.
- He fulfilled the prophecies and covenants (Luke 24:44-46). He fulfilled the prophecies, demonstrating the faithfulness of God, and fulfilled the covenants, satisfying both the people’s requirement, when they couldn’t, and His response.
- He identified with and become one of the poor and oppressed. Jesus clearly expressed his identity with the poor and oppressed (Matt 25:31-46), but he not only declared solidarity, he actually became poor (2 Cor 8:9) and oppressed (Isaiah 53:7), experiencing the full reality and suffering of the disadvantaged on the cross.
Any that you would add to the list?