But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. Hebrews 10:12
About thirty-three short years after His birth it was time for Jesus to face the cross. Though He was the only perfect man who’d ever lived, the most advanced religion of its time united with the most powerful empire of the day to bring Him down. It was a tragedy surpassing all others. Yet it was a drama of His own making. The Gospels hint that Christ was overseeing the whole process. He knew the fate that awaited Him. He knew He was born to die. From His birth His destination was Jerusalem and His destiny the cross. When death approached He called the shots. With the self-restraint that only God could have, Jesus allowed every lash of the whip, endured every taunt and lie, and suffered the ignominy and agony of crucifixion.
The cross is probably the cruellest form of capital punishment known to man. If Jesus had come to die for our sins during the French Revolution, He would have faced the guillotine. If He had come to die for our sins during the Second World War in Nazi Germany, He would have faced the gas chamber. If He had come to die for our sins in present day USA, it would have been the lethal injection or the electric chair. If He had come to die for our sins when I was a teenager in South Africa, He would have been hung. The guillotine, the gas chamber, the injection, the chair, and hanging, are relatively humane compared to the cross. But then the cross was reserved for murderers, slave revolts, and other heinous crimes against Roman rule. When the Jews executed someone they usually stoned them. Roman citizens were beheaded, not crucified. In fact Cicero said, “The idea of the cross should never come near the bodies of Roman citizens, it should never pass through their thoughts, eyes or ears.”
There’s no doubt about it. The cross was an accursed way to die (cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). Jesus knew that full well. In choosing to die for our sins He never spared Himself. He literally went the whole stretch. Even to the point of “becoming a curse for us” Galatians 3:13. Yet herein lies the good news, the cross, rather than being the darkest spot in all history, is the searchlight that penetrates the surrounding gloom. For at Calvary Christ “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” Colossians 2:15. Praise the Lord! Rather than defeating Jesus, the cross became the instrument with which the opposition was defeated. The cross routed evil and darkness. And now the cross is a symbol of hope. It’s the hinge to the door of salvation, the ladder that’s high enough to touch the threshold of heaven, and the key event by which we reckon our relationship with God.
That’s the great reversal. An instrument of death and torture is now a symbol of life and hope. Yes, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was crucified so that we might be brought to God. That’s why the cross is incomparable. For it’s on the cross that Christ rendered sin powerless (cf. Romans 6:6). It’s on the cross that Christ gave up His life so that you could have life to the full (cf. John 10:10). And it’s on the cross that Christ took away the wall of enmity that separated you from God.
So embrace the cross. Realize that we’re not saved by theories but by fact, and what is the fact? Christ died on the cross to reconcile “the world to himself” 2 Corinthians 5:19. He died to set you free so “you will be free indeed” John 8:36. And He held Himself on the cross in order to take the penalty of sin on Himself by offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” Hebrews 10:12. That’s the gospel! As Martin Luther says, “Alone upon the cross He hung that others He might save. Forsaken then by God and man, alone His life He gave!” It’s incomparable! Even though Christ “committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth … he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness …” 1 Peter 2:22, 24. Praise the Lord!