The Cross and History: A Good Friday Reflection
If you read the Gospels you will notice something striking. They don't care too much about Jesus' boyhood years. Really, they care most about the last few weeks of his life and a lot about the final 24 hours. They are anchored toward the cross. The cross provides the structure for the Gospels themselves. I've covered that precise subject in another post so that's not what I'm up to here. Rather, I want to ask approach a different though related subject. That is, how the cross provides the structure for all of history.
The fact that the cross provides the structure for all of history may sound odd. Certainly to the unbeliever it is preposterous. Yet, I keep going back to this quote from Herman Bavinck in volume three of his Reformed Dogmatics where he writes, “Christ is the turning point of the times, the cross the focal point of world history. Everything was led in the direction of the cross; everything was inferred from the cross.” That is quite a claim, we must admit, that the cross is the focal point of world history and that all of history is anchored toward it.
And yet, this is a thoroughly biblical statement. You see, in eternity past a covenant was made. It was like the many covenants of the Bible in the fact that it was a special and serious bond between two or more parties. We ourselves operate within similar agreements all the time whether we think about it or not. Mortgages, student loans, employment contracts, they all carry this sense of covenantal agreement. And yet, this covenant to which I'm referring was, in a striking sense, different than both our modern covenants and the various other biblical covenants outside of it; it was a covenant between the triune Godhead himself. Termed the covenant of redemption, it was the agreement among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to plan the redemption of the people of God.
It is precisely this covenantal agreement that Jesus is referring to when he says, "this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." in John 6:39. The past tense 'given' assume this covenant in eternity past (see also Psalm 2, Isa 53:10-12, Rom 8:29-30, Eph 1:3-14, Rev 13:8). So then in this agreement in eternity past you have, necessarily on the horizon, the cross of Christ whereby he will accomplish the redemption of his people. Time, in its very creation, is laid on the axis of the cross.
Paul, by the Spirit, knew this exactly to be the case. He wrote in Gal 4:4 that it was in the fullness of time that Christ came and Christ came to live and then certainly die on the cross and be raised (Rom 5:6 cf. 1 Cor 15:17). In Eph 1:10 Paul says that this very coming of Jesus was the plan "for the fullness of time". The term for fullness in its verbal form is regularly used in the New Testament for "to fulfill". Thus Paul, as he looks at history as such, sees there to be a moment in history where we might even say time itself has reached its fulfillment. Time itself had a purpose and it culminated at the cross.
This Good Friday we reflect on that dark day when Christ the Lord of the Universe was betrayed, flogged, beaten, hung on a criminal's cross, suffered the wrath of sin, died, and laid in a borrowed tomb. He did this for the joy that was set before him (Heb 12:2). It was no accident, it was all according to the plan of the Father (Isa 53:10, Luke 22:42). In the fullness of time, Christ accomplished our redemption.