All human history and the balance of the entire universe shifted some two thousand years ago through one cruel and common act on the outskirts of a dusty town in a corner of the Roman Empire.
This was a common practice. In 40 BC, two thousand
people were executed by the cross in one day. Some estimate in AD 70, two hundred people were killed per day throughout the year by crucifixion. So on the surface, the Friday this act took place wasn’t anything special.
It was cruel. It was common. And it was shameful. The act was so base, so offensive and so shameful that the Romans would be careful to avoid using the word “cross” in their everyday language.
But the image of the cross predates the Romans. A short cross, with equal length vertical and horizontal bars. Early on, it didn’t point to death, but symbolized the intersection of heaven and earth.
And on that Friday, on that day of redemption, heaven and earth intersected in a way as never before as the God-Man faced His death. The Lord God chose one of the most common, cruel and shameful ways to demonstrate His love for us and His hatred toward our sin. It was a cruel death because it was wrath toward sin.
Cruel and common.
Christ was born in a lowly, common place because there was no room for Him, and He died in a shameful place, outside the city, in the common way of many before and after Him.
Some Roman did his duty by hammering a few nails into the bodies of the condemned, and when I think of that nameless soldier, in my mind I always give him a name…my name.
But in that cruel and common act, all things changed.
The symbol of the cross took on new meaning. An instrument of execution more unsettling and cruel than any gas chamber, electric chair or hangman’s noose became the ultimate emblem of grace, mercy and love. And that is why it was a scandal to the Jews and utter foolishness to the Romans to hear that only through the Cross could one know God (1 Cor. 1:23). Not only do we depend upon the Cross, we glory in it, praise it and love it for its beauty.
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14).
Commentators tell us that there isn’t a word that corresponds exactly to the word we translate as “boast” in this passage. It’s more than to “brag on” the Cross.
It means to “boast in, glory in, trust in, rejoice in, revel in, and live for” all rolled into one.
You can’t talk about anything in Christianity without ultimately coming back to the Cross.
And you can’t view the Cross as being active in your live now without being confronted to live a life crucified, in body and will, to the Holy One.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” says Jesus (John 14:15). When I willfully choose to disobey Him, I am saying, quite directly, “Jesus, I don’t love You.”
Three Roman nails were not enough to hold the all-powerful, King of the Universe to two sticks joined together by sinful humans…but His choice to love us kept Him on the Cross that Friday.
My choice to love Him will keep me busy crucifying myself daily.
Since He sacrificed everything for me, how could I rightly withhold anything from Him?