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The Cosmic Significance of the Crossby Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
James J. Tissot, 'It Is Finished' (French painter and illustrator, 1836-1902), Brooklyn Museum, New York.
As we approach Holy Week, as we begin to prepare our hearts, we meditate on the cross, and Christ's resurrection.
The meaning of the resurrection is obvious! Jesus conquers death and the grave. The Father raises him and displays him to the world in all his glory. Nothing hidden. No more secrets. Now, Jesus the Prophet, the Teacher, the Healer, the Son of David, is seen in the clear light of day to be Israel's Messiah, Daniel's Son of Man,1 and the Father's Only Son -- fully divine, with a name above every name.2 The resurrection carries with it God's stamp of validation.
We get the resurrection. But what about the cross? What does that mean? When we examine the heartbreaking events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion, we can become both morose and cynical.
- One of Jesus' inner circle betrays him for a few coins.
- Religious leaders who are supposed to lead people to God are deeply complicit in the death of Jesus. The status quo is too safe and the perks of power too comfortable to examine anything new that God might be saying.
- A Roman governor, pledged to justice under law, casually tosses out the question, "What is truth?" and then publicly washes his hands in the face of what he knows to be gross injustice.
- Soldiers delight in mocking the Savior and beat him half-dead with a whip tipped with bits of glass or metal designed to cut into his flesh.
- A crown of thorns is jammed into his scalp to poke fun at his claim to be a King.
- Our Lord is too weak to carry his own cross, so another must do it.
- They pound spikes into his wrists and feet and hoist his cross up to the sky.
- Jesus forgives his tormentors.
- In thirst he cries out.
- In utter loneliness, he uses the words of Psalm 22 to ask why his Father has forsaken him.
- Within a few hours he is dead and his followers bury his body shortly thereafter.
- His disciples are utterly crushed. They run and hide.
Yes, there are a few heroic moments -- Peter's flashing sword, Joseph of Arimathea's request for Jesus' body -- but many more moments are dastardly to the core.
What does it all mean?
Many to this day see Jesus' crucifixion in the tired category of a sad but inevitable martyr's death -- injustice done, like so much injustice that is perpetrated upon reformers around the world. Jesus tried to change the system, tried valiantly, but he failed -- so they say. They see the sad and visible facts of the cross, but not the whole picture. What does the cross mean?
The significance of the cross is subtle -- but vital. Jesus says:
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." (Matthew 26:39a)
But avoiding the cross isn't possible, not if the Father's full plan is to be fulfilled. The meaning of the cross goes far beyond being an instrument of martyrdom. God is doing something here that isn't immediately obvious. It is a mystery. Paul writes:
"None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8)
Satan wouldn't have allowed it if he had known. He chortles to see Jesus playing right into his hands. The crucifixion is his ultimate victory. So he thinks. But it turns out he is wrong. Dead wrong. Consider this verse.
"He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:13-15)
Ponder that! Then these verses:
"Now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:31b-32)
"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1 John 3:8b)
"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 2:14b-15)
Something cosmic happens on the cross. The world sees lightning and earthquakes and hours of blackness. But in the heavenly realms, something basic has changed!
What exactly? It's hard to know completely this side of heaven. But it has to do with Jesus being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,3 and the Ransom given for all humankind that pays our debt in full,4 we are "bought with a price"5 -- "the precious blood of Christ."6 All of Satan's taunting accusations against you fall before Jesus' victorious shout, "It is finished!"7 You and I are saved from our desperate pit of sin! Our sins died with Jesus on the cross. They are gone! We are forgiven! Satan has no more power over us -- legal or usurped. We are free! Hallelujah.
Sometimes truth is better understood in verse than theology. Recently -- in a book long out-of-print -- I found a wonderful poem that veteran pastor Jack Hayford wrote and set to music -- one of more than 600 songs and hymns God has given him over his lifetime. Read it and rejoice.
All Is Well
by Jack Hayford
Raised by hate upon a hill,
Stark there stands a cross of wood.
Look, the Man they take and kill
Is the Lamb, the Son of God.
See the blood now freely flow;
"It is finished," hear Him cry!
Who can understand or know:
Death has won; yet death will die.
All is well, all is well,
Through Christ, our Conq'rer,
All is well. (repeat)
Slashing wounds now scar the Lamb,
Blemish free until He's slain,
Hammer blows into His hand
Thunder forth again, again.
See His Body raised in scorn,
See the spear now split His side!
Yet the vict'ry shall be
Won by this Man thus crucified.
Look! The Cross now raised on high --
Symbol of Christ's reign above.
Cow'ring demons fear and fly,
Driv'n before the flame of love.
All of hell is mystified;
Satan thought this hour his gain.
See God's wisdom glorified:
Death destroyed in Jesus' name.
Here is hope in hopelessness,
Here is joy where all is pain.
Here a fount of righteousness
Flows to all who make their claim.
Come and drink here, come and live.
Come and feast on life and peace.
In the Cross God's all He gives,
In the Cross is full release.
Tow'ring o'er all history
Stands the Cross of Christ the King.
Crossroad of all destiny,
At the Cross is ev'rything.
See here death hung on a Cross,
See self slain upon a tree,
See disease and ev'ry loss
Overthrown through Calvary!
All is well, all is well,
Through Christ, our Conq'rer,
All is well. (repeat)
Words and music by Jack Hayford, © 1981, Rocksmith Music. ASCAP. Contained in, Jack W. Hayford (editor), Day of Thy Power: A Devotional Hymnal (Living Way Ministries, Van Nuys, 1987).
- Daniel 7:13-14.
- Philippians 2.6-11.
- John 1:29.
- Mark 10:45b.
- 1 Corinthians 6:20.
- 1 Peter 1:19.
- John 19:30.
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