10 Ways to Find Rest at the Cross
How the Death of Christ Can Breathe New Life into Us Daily
In times of mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual exhaustion, we can, in light of God's word, find rest at the cross. Here are just some of the ideas revealed by Scripture about the cross of Jesus, ideas that should inspire comfort, peace, and encouragement. Consider how you might worship, give thanks, and pray in light of these ten truths...
1. Through the cross we find rest in God himself. I Peter 3:18 tell us that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...”. Apart from the glory of God, there is no higher prize that Jesus obtained through his death. We are God's forever, and if as the psalmist wrote, the “LORD is [our] rock... fortress.. deliverer... in whom [we] take refuge, my shield... my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2), we can rest secure eternally. Why? Because Jesus secured for us this kind of perfect security. As Augstine wrote over 1600 years ago, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”
2. Through the cross Jesus served us, in order to satisfy our debt. Though Jesus had already predicted his death (cf. Mark 8:31), Mark 10:45 records his first description concerning the 'why'. Instead of seeking greatness, Jesus called his disciples to a life of humble service, for “...even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" A ransom is paid to set someone free. As those served by Jesus in this way, believers have been set free and can truly rest from our attempts to earn God's favor.
3. On the cross, the Messiah bore the burden of our sin. The ransoming work about which Jesus spoke (and then actually accomplished) was not a scheme hatched during his ministry. It was the fulfillment of the Father's ancient plan to save his people. 700 years before Jesus, Isaiah prophesied about the work God's “servant” (52:13) would accomplish: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows... upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace... the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (53:4-6) We can rest because the soul-crushing, spiritually exhausting weight of our sin was not only carried by Jesus, it was conquered by Jesus, “once for all” (Hebrews 9:26).
4. The cross should persuade us that God will always provide. Paul wanted his readers to know that God is anything but stingy. The cross of Christ is proof that God is so generous towards us that he would even give, for our sake, that which is most precious to him. So if God's generosity is that deep, why do we worry about God providing for even lesser needs? We can rest in this logic: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
5. The cross is proof we have been loved best by the One who matters most. There is a restlessness that comes from being uncertain about love. While earthly romance or a family's devotion can reassure us in wonderful ways, the Apostle John points us to a far greater reality, confirmed by far better proof: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:9-10)
6. Because of his death on the cross, we can rest in the reality of a perfect priest. If we're ever tempted to believe our present sins could eclipse Christ's past work, the author of Hebrews provides a great reminder about our “confidence to enter the holy places” of God's presence. We can only do so “by the blood of Jesus” (10:19). But through that blood Jesus not only became our redeemer. He also became “a great priest over the house of God” (10:21). Therefore, knowing we presently have this perfect advocate, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22).
7. The cross should remind us of Jesus' ongoing devotion to his people. The Son of God is not a distant savior. The cross was, in fact, evidence of a relationship and a commitment that extended beyond Good Friday. Here's how Jesus described it: “'I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.'” (John 10:14-15) Jesus doesn't simply serve us in the Father's presence. We can also rest in the fact that, through the Holy Spirit, he is among his people as their loving shepherd.
8. Through the cross, we are freed from the sin-inspired restlessness of the old self. The reality of the cross not only allowed Paul to exclaim, “I have been crucified with Christ”, but also, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Wonderfully, the one who served us through his death, the who serves us even now as our high priest at God's right hand, and as the Good Shepherd among his people, also lives in each one of us by his Spirit. By the power of His cross, we can live each day in light of the death he invites us to share with him; death to that old, straying self, in order to enjoy peace and strength because of “Christ who lives in [us]”.
9. Because of his death on the cross Jesus delivers us from the fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 teaches us that God the Son became human like us so "that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." As this verse points out, we have a spiritual enemy who wants to use our mortality to keep us fixated in fear on the 'here and now'. Only Christ can provide us with peace in the face of such fear, the peace of eternal life, since only Christ can set us free through his own death (and subsequently, his victory over death).
10. The cross has established Jesus as God's agent of ultimate restoration. The uncertainty of the future can leave any one of us feeling anxious. But God wants to reassure us that he has a plan to rid our world of all injustice and establish his perfect order forever and ever. In Revelation 5, that plan is visualized as a scroll, and critically, Jesus as "a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain" (5:6), for only Christ can 'open' this scroll (i.e., only he can carry out the plan of God). Why Jesus? “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation..." (5:9).