The Cross

1.  The Violence Of The Cross

Late one night, over Dunkin Donuts and coffee, I made this offhanded comment about the crucifixion to my college roommate, “At least he [Christ] didn’t have to hang there too long.”  My friend was indignant, “What?!  John, let me tell you a little bit about a crucifixion!” And he went on to describe the horrors of the cross in great detail.  Everything about a cross-death was designed to cause maximum suffering.  It is, perhaps, the cruelest tool of human torture ever devised.  The word excruciate is derived from Latin words that mean “out of the cross.”

At some point during the description, I cut him off.  I was embarrassed and alarmed.  I still cringe when I think of the ignorance and foolishness of my comment.  Jesus endured the worst kind of suffering while hanging there.

At that time, I had already trusted Christ’s cross-work on my behalf.  I had placed my faith in the paradoxical power of the cross to remove the penalty and guilt of my sin.  Sin’s curse (inherited from Adam) had been removed and my broken relationship with God the Father had been restored.  However, I had not wrestled with the fact that God had accomplished my rescue and restoration by means of unspeakable violence.

The bible says, through the prophet Isaiah, that Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” and “…he [Jesus] had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him…”  Christ’s innocence, our violence, God’s wrath and mercy—they all come together at the cross to bring new meaning to death and life.

Years later, I would begin to see how the violence of the cross of Christ gave meaning to my own struggle with violent attitudes and behaviors.  God would ask me to look more closely at the cross-work of Jesus and he would pry open a door in my heart that I had tried to keep ever closed.  He would show me how the cross gave meaning to my violence and freed me from the bondage and guilt of it.  And, he would show me how he was remaking my violence for his good purposes.

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