A number of years ago, I had the privilege of having lunch with Billy Graham. While I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask, there was one thing I was especially curious about.
I said to him, "If you knew then as a younger preacher what you know now after all these years, what would you do differently?"
Without hesitation, he replied, "I would preach more on the cross and on the blood. That is where the power is."
In the weeks before Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ, was released, the film had already been generating controversy. I found it curious that so much controversy surrounded a film that hadn't been released yet.
I thought about it and wondered why that was. Could it be that the devil hated the idea that this message would be brought to the American public via the movie theaters?
The devil hates the message of the cross and doesn't want it to go out, because he knows it is powerful. As 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, "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" (NKJV).
There is power in this message of the cross and the shed blood of Jesus. Yes, it is controversial. But it is the absolute truth.
Still, it is a message that we see neglected today. In some churches, the cross and the blood aren't mentioned anymore.
Understand this; the death of Jesus wasn't an afterthought. It was God's purpose from the very beginning. Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (NKJV). In 1 Corinthians 5:7, we read, "Indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (NKJV).
Long before Jesus went to the cross, God instituted the Passover feast, which was to be kept by the Israelites, and which pointed to Jesus Christ. There are clear parallels between the two that we should take note of.
The Passover was to be a new beginning. In the midst of the year, God gave His people a new beginning (see Exodus 12:2). In the same way, wherever you are in life, whatever your age, whatever you have done, if you will say, "God, I am sorry for my sin and turn from it," then you too can have a new beginning.
The Passover lamb was to be the finest, strongest, the very best, and without blemish or defect (see Exodus 12:3). On the tenth day of the month, it was to be carefully watched for four days to make sure it met the divine specifications. God was saying to take the very best and slay it, so the consequences of sin could be seen.
When Jesus Christ was put to death for our sin, God was offering His very best. Jesus was in the prime of His life. He had never sinned (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was perfect. He was flawless.
The Passover lamb had to be slain. It wasn't the life of the lamb that saved the people from judgment. It was the death of it (see Hebrews 9:22).
There are people who will say they admire the life and teaching of Jesus: "He was a great moral example," or "He was a wonderful humanitarian."
But it is not enough to just admire the life and teachings of Jesus. It was His death on the cross that paid the price for our redemption (see Matthew 26:28).
The blood of the Passover lamb had to be applied. It wasn't enough to just slay the lamb. The blood of the slain lamb was to be applied around the door frame (see Exodus 12:7,22). This means there was blood above the door, on each side of the door, and at the base of the door, reminding us of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
God had promised the Israelites, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" (verse 13). God was not only saying that He would pass over their homes, but that He would stand guard over them as well.
The same is true of us when we have put our faith in Jesus Christ. When the devil wants to come and wreak havoc in our lives, he recognizes that we belong to Jesus Christ. We come under His protection, because the blood has been applied.
Has that moment come for you?
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!