By Brenda Black
The cross - An instrument of torture used to execute a Savior. Foolishness to those who don't believe and freedom to the faithful. A work of art down through history; a means of murder to ancient Romans. The cross. Take a closer look.
I must admit, I intended to itemize the details of Jesus' gruesome death on this Friday we oddly call “Good”. I wanted to drive home the horror of his sacrifice and impress on any who would read this column just how heinous the assault against an innocent man. I can't. I have seen the Hollywood and Holy Word versions of the Easter story. I've read the graphic details from both medical and emotional perspectives. My stomach turns, my spirit falls. I shudder in abhorrent shame that one would willingly submit to such torture for me. And I cannot recount it again.
Still, some have not heard and may not know that Jesus died the most horrid of deaths. The sanitized portraits of museum paintings don't depict the massive blood spilled or the searing pain from nail-pierced feet and hands that bolted through Jesus' head. You can't see lungs filling with fluid and asphyxiation or muscle cramps and spasmodic convulsions. And what can never be painted in enamel or oil is the broken heart that killed the Christ on the cross.
These things you can't see in any picture, but you can read in the Holy Scriptures. And you'll know and understand that it was love that held Christ suspended miserably between hell and heaven. In Jesus' final words, we see the perfect picture of the cross. An instrument of torture turned into a bridge to the very throne of God.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” Christ said of the wicked Roman soldiers who ripped his back with bones and lead, plucked his beard and mocked him derisively. (Luke 23:34)
And to the criminal, guilty by his own confession, Christ extends an invitation, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk. 23:43)
The sun stopped shining we're told in verse 45. I don't think that means just overcast skies and pending rain. God blotted out the sun with His shadow when He turned His back on His Son and completed the work of salvation to the bitter end. I imagine it was a dark so black, those at the foot of the cross could feel it. And they shuddered at what they blindly witnessed – the power of a loving, holy God who could not look upon such sin without a perfect sacrifice.
“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice. 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:44-46)
Jesus gapped the chasm between humanity and holiness and his ghastly suffering afforded all who believe the perfect healing. The cross - an instrument of torture turned victoriously holy by a bleeding, suffering, sacrificing Savior. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
This Easter Sunday, take a closer look. Survey the wondrous cross in a deeper way. Remember the Lord who died in your place. See your sins pinned to his flesh and hang your head in repentance.
Then lift up your face and find freedom for Christ died in your place!
“...we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says,
“'I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.'
“And again 'I will put my trust in him.'
“And again he says, 'Here am I, and the children God has given me.'
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:9-15)
I pray this Easter you receive a permanent stay of execution when you look closer at the cross and see salvation.