The Beauty and the Agony of the Cross
April 6, 2012 - Jesus Christ died on a rugged cross for our salvation. We do not worship that cross; we worship Christ, who is alive. Yet among all the emblems of the world, the cross is admired with awe and wonder.
If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to Myself (John 12:32).
A Message from Billy Graham
The history of the cross goes back long before Christ came. But it was the Romans who used it on a massive scale to execute people. The victim was fastened to the cross by cords, or his hands were nailed, and he was left to die.
Even with the heat of the sun, the pull of the body and the torture the victim had endured before being put on the cross, sometimes it took a week to die on a cross. It was one of the most terrible, painful ways to die.
But Christians started to use the cross as a symbol of Christianity. And every time the Gospel is proclaimed, those who hear the message and receive Christ as Savior come to faith by way of the cross.
Four dimensions of the cross come to my mind
First, I think about the breadth of the cross. The love of Christ is manifested in the cross to everyone. When I study the world population and see how fast it is increasing, I am staggered. Yet God loves us all.
His love extends to Africa, to Asia, to Latin America, to Russia, to China, to the United States, to Canada—to the whole world. It includes you, whoever you are, whatever your religion, even if you have no religion. God says from the cross, “I love you.”
Second, there is the length of the cross. It has no measure. It extends from eternity to eternity, from everlasting to everlasting. When Noah built the Ark, it was 450 feet long. When Solomon built the Temple, it was 60 cubits long. If you build a shed for garden tools, you can measure the lumber with a tape measure. But how can you measure God’s love for us on the cross?
The Bible says that God’s love surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). There is no way that our finite minds can even begin to understand the love God had for us when He gave His Son on the cross to die for us, because you and I deserve death. We deserve judgment and hell.
Third, I think of the height of the cross—it extends to the throne of God. It doesn’t matter how high heaven is. Through the cross, God draws all people to Himself. But you have to make a decision about Jesus Christ.
Last, I think about the depth of God’s love for us on the cross. You can fall into the pit of sin and degradation. You can live like an animal. You can be a murderer, a rapist. But you can’t get beyond the love of God. The cross covers to the very gates of hell. How deep is God’s love? The Bible says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33). It can draw every sinner up to the exalted height of heaven. Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).
Think of the cross for a moment
Think of Christ’s suffering for you and for me. It’s said that Jesus endured five kinds of wounds: Concussion, when they beat Him on the head; laceration, when they bared His back, took long leather whips with steel pellets on the end and beat Him until He was bleeding from head to toe; penetration, when they crushed that crown of thorns on His brow; perforation, when they drove the nails through His hands and feet; and incision, when they put the spear in His side.
Those nails through His hands and feet were driven by you and me and all the peoples of the world. We all had a part in the death of Christ because of our sins. Our sins put Him on the cross—and you participated.
You will never understand the Bible, you will never understand the death of Christ on the cross, until you understand that God is a holy and righteous and pure God. He cannot even look upon evil.
In that terrible time of the agony of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, a shadow came between God the Father and God the Son. God cannot look upon sin, and in that moment He was laying your sins and mine on Christ.
He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). That means that He had never known sin, never told a lie, never had an evil thought, never had any greed or lust. But all of the filth and dirt from your life and my life descended on Him. None of us will ever understand the mystery of that moment. It was God’s great love for each of us that allowed His Son to take that suffering.
Sin and Eternity
You and I have sinned against God. We have broken His laws. God told Adam that if he broke God’s law, he would surely die (Genesis 2:17). But Adam and Eve broke His law.
They sinned. We have all deliberately rebelled against God. God would not be God, He wouldn’t be just and righteous and holy, if He came along and patted us on the back and said, “You’re forgiven.” We either had to die for our own sins, or somebody who was qualified had to die for us. That Person who was qualified was Jesus Christ, and He volunteered to do it. He died in our place. People will do almost anything to get rid of their guilt. The place to get rid of guilt is at the cross. Jesus came to die. On the cross He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
God had given Jesus a work to do, and in the Gospel of John we read that Jesus said, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). We wonder why He didn’t feed everybody and heal everybody. He could have done it. He healed some people and fed some who were hungry, and He did that out of compassion. But His real work was the cross; there He was dealing with eternity.
Your body will go to the grave. Your soul, your spirit—the part of you that lives forever—will live on. Where will you spend eternity? Heaven or hell? That will be decided by what you do about the cross, because from the cross Christ is asking you to repent of your sin and receive Him as your Lord and Savior.
On the cross Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). They did not take His life from Him; He laid it down voluntarily. He gave up His Spirit to God the Father. And in saying this, He conferred upon every one of us the possibility of the gift of eternal life. You can have eternal life, too. Jesus’ invitation is to heaven.
We were lost, confused, without purpose or meaning in life, without assurance of a future life. But from the cross Jesus reached out by His death and rescued us. We can say to Him today, “Lord,” “Savior.” Are you sure that He is your Lord and your Savior? Thousands of people attend church, but they are not sure that they have committed their lives to Christ.
The crowd at the cross was shouting, “Save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Others were saying, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save” (Matthew 27:42). They were mocking, jeering, laughing.
Christ was on the cross for six hours between two thieves (Luke 23:39-44). They both deserved to die, according to Roman law. But one of the thieves looked at Jesus, and he saw that Jesus was different. He must have said to himself, “He has to be the Son of God. He has to be Lord.” He said, “We deserve what we are getting, but He does not—He hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). What an act of faith!
And what did Jesus say? “Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). That thief will be in heaven. Jesus forgave him by His death on the cross.
The forgiveness and the mercy of God are so far beyond our comprehension that we can hardly even talk about them.
Do you know Christ? Do you know the forgiveness of the cross and the power of Christ’s resurrection? Are you forgiven? Have you received new life, resurrection life? I am asking you to make your commitment to Christ. God will help you, if you are willing.
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