For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 1:22-24)
I found myself in Santa Fe a few weeks ago, touring restaurants and historic churches with my wife.
Every church had a series of “stations of the cross” — depictions of Jesus’ painful hours leading up to His crucifixion. Every church had depictions of a bloody and battered Jesus on the cross.
There was a time when I’d dismiss such depictions, saying rightly that Jesus is no longer on the cross, but has risen victorious over sin and death. At present, Jesus is fully alive, interceding on our behalf, free from the tortuous pain of the cross. He had said, “It is finished,” and I believed that the entire Jesus-on-the-cross thing was finished and should be behind us.
But I’ve come to a place where it’s helpful for me to reflect on Christ’s agony on the cross. It’s helpful to remind myself why He went to the cross: to take upon Himself not only the sins of the whole world, but of more personal relevance, to take upon Himself each one of my many sins.
When I meditated on the cross in that historic Santa Fe church, with Jesus hanging on it, I better saw the significance of my sin, the consequence of my sin, the weightiness of it, the reality of it, the gruesomeness of it. And I saw the sacrificial love of God that brings peace.
When I look upon crucifixes — not mere crosses, but Jesus hanging on the cross — I’m reminded that the crucifixion was a historical event, something that really took place some 2,000 years ago, and not merely an “ideal.” The cross is not merely a symbol, but a real place in real time where the Lord changed history and demonstrated His greatest act of love.
It is by the wounds Jesus received on the cross that I am healed. If I share in Christ’s suffering, then I will share His glory and His power and His comfort as well. Jesus suffered in order to sanctify me through His own blood. He suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring me to God. He canceled the record of debt that stood against me, nailing it to the cross. I am reconciled to God through the cross of Christ.
I am thankful for the cross. Too easily I forget, and so I’m also thankful for crucifixes, how they draw me back to the cross, how they draw me back to Jesus, the suffering servant and risen King.