Ever since Resurrection Sunday I have been thinking about the crucifixion. Here are a few thoughts I have been meditating on lately.
When we look at the cross we see an intersection between the vertical and horizontal: the beams are not in-line with one another, but they are perpendicular. So many things about the cross run cross-ways—they just don’t seem to line up. The cross is a combination of contrarieties.
The cross is ugly. On it a man was beaten beyond recognition, so that his own mother could not recognize him. The cross is filled with blood and gore and nakedness and shame. It is horrifying! And yet the cross is the most beautiful sight in the world. On it my Savior demonstrated unfathomable love, so much so that he was willing to be the substitute himself and bear my punishment.
The cross is a convergence of sorrow and joy, contempt and adoration. As the disciples and the women gathered around Christ’s cross they could not help but weep at the death of their Lord. And yet when he rose again on the third day—when they realized that all of this had been to take away their sins—they could not but see this moment with joy as the pivotal moment for salvation; and we cannot help but look back and adoringly worship him in this moment. With so many scoffers throwing their contempt in his face, this looked to be his worst moment; but it was his finest moment.
The celestial hosts stared down from heaven, witnessing the manifold wisdom of God. The sons of men stared up, confused by the sight that they were seeing. Principalities in heavenly places realized that this atonement would purchase fallen humanity; even as fallen humanity cursed their Lord in rebellion or stood baffled by the death of a man no one thought could die. The contrast feels contradictory: heaven so certain of this atoning moment, earth so confused by it, and one man with one hand on each world. He endures the cross “for the joy set before him”, but still asked “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
The cross shows us how much God hates sin—enough to punish it and beat it and crucify it, and forsake his only begotten Son if that is what it takes to eliminate it. But the cross also shows us how much God loves the sinner—enough to endure the passion and the beating so that he can reconcile them to himself.
A Savior who did not deserve punishment took it, so that people who did not deserve mercy could have it.