The cross.

It’s a symbol revered all over the world. We put crosses inside church sanctuaries and on our worship facilities. Some churches are built in the shape of a cross.

We put crosses at graveyards. You’ve probably seen them on the side of the road marking the place of a deadly accident.

We also celebrate the cross. We sing about it – “So I’ll cling to the old rugged cross.” We make jewelry in the shape of the cross or use it for a tattoo.

Truths in the Cross

However, the cross is more than a symbol.

The cross is the meeting place of God’s justice and mercy. It’s the location of divine wrath and forgiveness. It marks the death of the eternal Son of God. It’s the darkest moment that leads to the brightest hope.

The crucifixion of Jesus is the turning point of God’s redemptive plan. The cross opens the door for forgiveness. It provides atonement for sin. It ends the separation of God and mankind. The cross is a brutal, nasty instrument by which God demonstrates his love for us.

Accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion are dark. Death by crucifixion was brutal. After the person’s hands were fasted to the cross beam by nails or ropes, he was hoisted on a vertical beam. His feet nailed to a small platform. With a badly beaten body and out-stretched arms, every breath was difficult and brought searing pain on the hands and the feet.

Death by crucifixion could last for days.

Above the head of Jesus was a sign “King of the Jews.” It appears that he’s cursed by God, stripped of everything, and defeated.

The cross was awful, and the biblical accounts are designed to help us to see the tragedy of this moment – to feel it deeply.

Three Lessons

The gospel writers also want us to understand the connection between what happened on Good Friday and the plan of God.

They want us to see the suffering, the pain, and the death of Jesus. But they also want us to know that this is all part of God’s plan – a plan for people to believe.

With that in mind, what should we learn when considering the cross?

1. Sin is horrible

As we look at the tortured experience of Jesus and the cruelty of crucifixion, we’re reminded that this sacrifice was only necessary because of the collective rebellion of humanity.

The cross reminds us about the brokenness of our world.

Every conflict, every fractured relationship, every scam, every sinful word, every sickness, every virus, and every death point to our need for help – more so than we even realize.

2. Jesus loved us

John’s gospel began with, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The cross is not merely a symbol of brutal execution; it became the emblem of God’s love for us. The death of the Son didn’t happen by accident, it was God’s plan to rescue us.

He died because he loves us.

3. God’s in control

Nothing about the cross is by accident.

At the time, the crucifixion of Jesus looked like a disaster – a complete failure. But underneath the crucifixion is a divine plan. God worked his gracious strategy to open the floodgates for redemption.

The cross is a symbol of God’s ability to take something awful and make it amazing. A cruel tool of execution became the key to everlasting life.

This is God’s plan for redemption.

As dark and bleak and disastrous as this moment looked, God was fulfilling his gracious plan.

If you need hope today amid dark days, look again to the cross. If you wonder where to look for encouragement and hope – come to Golgotha.

Because it is there, near the cruel cross, that we see the mercy of God. It is there, at the horrific cross, that we find hope.

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Mark Vroegop is the Lead Pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis and the author of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament and Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation

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