The Blunt Subtlety of the Cross

I hesitate to write because the subject of the cross is so vast and so deep that one or a thousand entries could not exhaust it’s store. Nonetheless, as I prepare a series of sermons that will lead up to Resurrection Sunday, my mind is drawn to the cross.

I have always been amazed at how efficiently the Gospel authors describe the death of Jesus. Matthew describes the scene in what amounts to two paragraphs. Mark, known for his brevity, writes scantly more than Matthew. Luke, with a physician’s precision uses maybe three paragraphs. John, who spends half of his gospel on the last week of Jesus’ life and was the only writer who was an eye-witness, writes no more than Luke.

Part of the reason the writers don’t dwell on the details is the first century reader would need no help envisioning such a horrific scene. Another reason may be that it was emotionally difficult for them to record what they had heard and seen because of their love for Jesus. Yet, in what amounts to no more than two or three pages of type, we read of the event that changed the world, the crucifixion of God.

God on a cross. How absurd that sounds. But to ransom my soul, He endured it’s pain and humiliation. The message of the cross is blunt and two-fold:

1) Your sin is evil and deserves the severest of punishments
2) God is good and took your place on the cross.

But in that blunt message are hidden subtleties. Some are so subtle you may have never noticed them. The head adorned with thorns. Thorns that would not exist if it were not for man’s sin (see Genesis 3:17-18). The hands pierced with nails. The nails do not hold Jesus there, for he could have come down any time he wanted. No the nails hold something else there; a certificate of debt that we could not pay, now stamped “paid in full” by the blood of Jesus (see Colossians 2:14). A discarded robe, representing the righteousness Christ shed so that we may clothe ourselves in Christ (Galatians 3:27). It’s as if God had thought of every detail and placed them there for our discovery, if only we would look.

Unfortunately the cross has become too familiar. We see it as jewelery, emblazoned on T-shirts and decorating CD covers. To many, the cross is no longer heavy; it is no longer blunt. But I implore you, rediscover this core of the Christian faith. Never lose sight of the cross, for to do so is to lose sight of salvation. Once you discover, or re-discover, the bluntness of God’s message (“you deserve these nails, but I took them instead”) then discover the subtleties of His love and care.

There are many more subtleties than those mentioned above, but I leave those for you to discover as you meditate on the cross and what it means to a sinner saved by grace.

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