For the next three weeks, as Easter approaches, we will be reflecting on the cross here on the blog. We hope you are encouraged as you read and reflect on Jesus and His love.
As a worship pastor, I often hear, sing, and lead songs that have lyrics about the image of the cross. The image of the cross is not only in songs however, it is everywhere and it is the staple symbol of Christianity. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, you will see the image of the cross as a photo, on a necklace, as a tattoo, and in many other places. If we step back for a moment and think about the prevalence of the cross, it is a bit shocking as it represents one of the most gruesome ways of torture and death known to man. The worst criminals of the time, the ones who weren’t even worthy to be stoned, beheaded or put to death in any other way, were sentenced to this repulsive act of execution. And yet it is a representation of our faith as Christians and of our Savior. But why was Jesus sentenced to this gruesome death? Jesus was perfect. He never sinned, never made a mistake. Even Pontius Pilot, an unrighteous, worldly Roman Prefect, washed his hands clean of this man’s so called “guilt.” As an innocent man, Jesus didn’t deserve this death. But, as prophesied for hundreds of years, He went to the cross. Jesus fulfills these oracles in Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” Like an innocent lamb, he was led to be executed. For what purpose? The prophet Isaiah proclaims the answer centuries before the occurrence in Isaiah 53:5-6: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
For us all! The apostle Paul speaks of the scandalous nature of the cross repeatedly throughout the New Testament. Very clearly, he writes of the importance of the cross in 1 Corinthians 1:23: “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” and Romans 5:7-9 states, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Thank you Jesus!
So what does this mean for us? The cross (and subsequently the Resurrection) is the most central part to a life with the Living God. The crucifixion is the manifestation of God’s unhindered, unfiltered, uncontained and unconditional love and forgiveness for all who call on the Name of Jesus. Luke 23:34 says: “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is the heart of the cross. Jesus’ words for them at this scene and for us today are words of abundant forgiveness in response to our sin. I love what Isaiah 40:1-2 says of Israel: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.” The beauty in the midst of this appalling and grisly act is the majestic and undeserved forgiveness of our sins. God has given us double for all our sins! We don’t deserve even the equivalent. But in His goodness, He pardons us without measure.
This leaves me to ask this question: “How can I apply this to my life today?” Jesus foretold that we would have to do the same thing that He did in Matthew 16:24-25: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Our call as followers of Jesus is to take part in His death and resurrection. Philippians 3:10 says: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."
Romans 6:5 says: “ For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” What a joy and honor it is to share in His death, the crucifixion. I know it sounds bewildering and confusing, but the crucifixion, albeit hideous and repulsive, is the most beautiful event that could ever have happened in the history of the world. Next time you see that cross necklace or tattoo on some dudes over beefed-up bicep, let that be a reminder to you of the ultimate sacrifice He gave so that you might have life. And let it remind you of the joy we have to take up our own cross alongside the most glorious Friend and Savior, Jesus.
Prayer in response:
Thank you Jesus for giving your life for mine. I don’t deserve your love and forgiveness, but You chose me. I choose to take up my cross and follow you. I don’t want to gain the world and lose my soul. Thank you for enduring the evil and pain of the cross so that I might have eternal life. In this season, help me see your sacrifice as a beautiful yet heartbreaking act to come alongside you and carry my cross with You. I love You Jesus and choose to say yes to You again.
By Preston Seibert