It seems that each year around this time, God helps me understand the Cross in a fresh light; not necessarily a new light that I've never seen before, but a specific aspect of the meaning of Christ's crucifixion. A couple years ago, God worked through an Eastern Orthodox bishop and thinker named Kallistos Ware to help me see the profound significance of Christ's work on the cross as more than a mere sacrifice that somehow got God to forgive my personal sins. In fact, there was a way in the Old Testament for finding forgiveness for personal sins, as we see in David's confession and repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. Deeper than that, as I saw then, Christ went to the cross to heal a broken, sin-sick humanity. Isaiah wrote about this in Is. 53:5: "By His wounds we are healed." Spiritual healing from sin and its effects seems to be in mind in John 3:14-15, as John or Jesus refers to Moses' bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness. The cross is about Christ's brokenness leading to our healing from sin.
This year has been different, though. God has really been teaching me and speaking to me through my evangelism class, and as I've thought about sharing the Gospel with others, it's become evident that we can't leave sin out of the equation. We can't understand the truly good news of Jesus' death and resurrection unless we first understand the bad news of our sin and the punishment we deserve because of our sin. As an American evangelical, it is tempting for me to skip over the reality of sin and God's justice in hating and punishing sin, simply wanting to jump to the good news of God's love shown in Jesus dying for us. But without a recognition of our sin (as individuals who are part of the whole human race) and God's justice (which is clear throughout the Bible), the Cross is a mere tragedy. So God has been showing me that He truly is good, holy, just and loving, and it is because of all those aspects of who He is that Jesus, God the Son, willingly went to the Cross on our behalf. Healing...Punishment...Love...Justice... Because of the truly profound nature of God, I'll never fully understand the richness of the Cross, but He continues to give me hints and tastes of His fullness shown to us there.