By definition the cross is personal to the Christian man or woman. Abstract theories of the atonement don't do me any good unless by faith I grasp for myself the truth that Jesus died for me. Meaning he died in my place and for my benefit. This personal dimension of the cross should grow more precious with each passing year. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst," the Apostle Paul proclaims (1 Tim. 1:15 NIV) and Charles Wesley strikes just the right emotional tenor with his immortal words.
an interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
The cross is, must be, personal, but it's also cosmic. In fact I'd hazard a guess that when the New Testament writers talk about the work of the cross it's more often in cosmic terms than personal or individual ones. They show it to us in close-up, but more often we're given wide-angle shots. In addition Jesus and the Apostles didn't speak of the cross just as a means of salvation, they quite often spoke of it in terms of judgment too. A classic text is John 12:31-32. Listen to this sweeping statement from Jesus as he's about to go to the cross.
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of the world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
Peter's sermon at Pentecost (see Acts 2) ties the cross and resurrection to the text from Joel which foretells a day of cosmic salvation and cosmic judgment. Of course, Peter doesn't neglect to bring in the dimension of personal salvation: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." And then I love how Paul ties the personal and cosmic dimensions of the cross together in Colossians 2:13-15.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Are those "rulers and authorities" simply Satan and his demons? Yes and no. For what I think is a correct application you'll have to wait until Friday. Which brings me to the point of this post -- which is that tomorrow and Friday I'd like to break out the wide-angle lens and share two of the best things I've read recently on the cosmic, universe-shaking, epoch-shattering accomplishment of the cross. Christianity makes the audacious claim that the events of Holy Week are the pivotal events of human history, that they are of universal significance, and that through them we can begin to see the world as it really is. I'd say that's worth a look.