The cross of Christ is often romanticized, particularly in song and lyrics. I wonder if most people who sing about it with a tear in their eye are not oblivious to the horror, torture and devastation of a Roman crucifixion.
It is documented that centuries before Jesus was born, the cross had been used as an instrument of torture and death. In 519 BC, for example, King Darius I of Persia crucified 3,000 political enemies in Babylon. This method of execution was later adopted by the Romans for non-citizens and slaves.
Two rough timbers were strapped together with which to hang a criminal who would ultimately die of asphyxiation.
Jesus, the sinless son of God, hung between two of those criminals.
Where other’s lives would ebb away, the last words of Jesus were bold and loud: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
It is noteworthy to understand the value God’s Word places on the cross. Why would some religion be so focused on an instrument of execution? There were other instruments of torture and death in the first century. But God chose one of the worst with which to offer the sacrifice of his son and to demonstrate his love for mankind.
Most people in our culture would likely abhor any sustained thoughts on the gas chamber, the electric chair or the hanging noose. What good could come of that?
The cross has also been offensive to some. The apostle Paul explicitly mentioned that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”
Someone has once asked, “How could we be saved eternally by the unjust execution of a Jew centuries ago? What an offense to human pride, goodness, and self-sufficiency.”
But that’s the point, isn’t it? All of our human goodness is worthless before God.
Isaiah wrote, “all our righteousness is as filthy rags.”
Aside from Christ, there is not one person who has ever lived or ever will live who can stand righteous and sinless before God. We all need a Saviour.
That’s why the apostle Paul gratefully exclaimed, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The cross of Jesus Christ is the supreme demonstration of the love of God. But there were many ways by which Christ suffered: when Jesus began His ministry the religious leaders were offended and infuriated at His teaching and they sought to kill Him – but He escaped from their midst.
At other times they tried to take Him, but were afraid of the crowd.
He was hated, scorned, ridiculed. And finally they did arrest Him, crucify Him and murder Him.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.”
Jesus had to die to satisfy the righteous demands of God in order to provide salvation for all who would believe in him. His death a burial appeared to end his existence, but three days later he rose triumphant and victorious over death and the grave. How great is our God.
Les Warriner is the pastor of Living Way Foursquare Church in Maple Ridge.