A decorated, wooden cross stands in my front yard. I’ve had many compliments on its beauty, but sometimes it tilts to one side since we did not do a very good job in digging and filling in the hole around its base. Many mornings I have to straighten it so it will look pretty. Hmmmm – a “pretty” cross?
We have come a long way from the cultural reality of the cross in Jesus’s day. It was a symbol of execution, much like the electric chair in today’s society. Think about wearing a gold electric chair around your neck or decorating it for your front yard! Even though the cross and the electric chair may be a symbol of execution by the courts, they are very different in how the death sentence is carried out. Today, those who are delivered to electrocution are spared from public humiliation and from a slow death. We don’t walk the criminal through the streets of the local town before they sit condemned to die. We don’t take their clothes from them and we don’t deliver just enough electricity to elongate their suffering. And neither do we place them next to a public roadway so that all who pass by can see their death. In all of its own ugliness, the electric chair does not equal the cross in its cruelty.
The tilted cross in my front yard reminded me of something else. Our view of the cross can become tilted. It is easy for us to see its love and forget its wrath. It is easy to see its beauty and forget its shame. It is easy to see its power and forget its cost.
Any balanced view of the cross will see that the blood spilled upon it contained justice and love mingled together. The wrath of God and the love of God was there at the same time.
Through the cross, God proved Himself to be just. If God ignored sin’s punishment, He would be unjust. No one wants a judge who refuses to punish law breakers. When punishment does not come to the guilty then we hear people protesting that justice was not served. If a human judge can not pardon everyone and keep his job, how can we think that God can do the same? He must punish the guilty so that justice can be served. The cross was God quenching His own wrath…justice served…payment made…guilt punished.
If the cross was the wrath of God, how in the world was it also the love of God? In His love, He provided the sacrifice upon which justice would be served. In His love, He provided a perfect, sinless sacrifice that could bear our guilt once and for all. In His love He sent Jesus. No wonder in Revelations 5 we find the worship of the Lamb who appeared “as if it had been slain.” The Lamb who “purchased men for God.” Jesus paid the price by willfully bearing the wrath of God. This is truly love at its highest…the just dying for the unjust.
The Resurrection was God placing His approval on all that was done on the cross. It was Him saying “YES!” to His Son…..
“Yes” – payment accepted. “Yes” – work completed. “Yes” – justice served. “Yes” – My wrath is satisfied. “Yes” – My love is proved…..now “RISE!!!!!!!!!”
As John Piper put it so well, “The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.” (Desiring God)
A balanced gift. A beautiful gift. God’s gift.