Two Views of the Cross

The crucifixion of Jesus is the central event of the Bible; indeed, of all history. We may look at it in one of two ways.

The Most Shameful Event in History
Jesus’ crucifixion was shameful because an innocent man was executed. Pilate, His judge, said so—three times (Luke 23:4, 14, 22). Herod agreed (v. 15). So did Jesus’ executioner (v. 47). And Jesus was not merely innocent, He was perfect. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He always did the Father’s will (John 8:29). He was sinless (v. 8:46). Yet they put Him to death.

Jesus’ death was also shameful because it was accomplished by such a degrading means. Romans reserved crucifixion for slaves and the worst of criminals. It was done in full public view. From the Jewish perspective, the Law pronounced a curse on the one who was hanged on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Galatians 3:13). And just as sin sacrifices were considered unclean and their carcasses were burned outside the camp of Israel (Leviticus 16:27-28), Jesus was crucified “outside the camp,” not merely the city but the fellowship of Jerusalem (Hebrews 13:11-13). He was discarded as unclean!

Jesus was purposefully degraded during His execution. The Jewish leaders beat and mocked Him at His trials (Matthew 26:67-68). Pilate caricatured His kingship by  giving Him a crown of thorns, a reed for a scepter, and a royal robe (John 19:1-5). Some of Jesus’ judges jeered at Him as He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:41-43).

The Most Glorious Event in History
Jesus’ crucifixion was shameful, but it was also glorious. By means of it, Jesus made atonement for the sins of all mankind (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). In the cross, the Father fully revealed Himself to us: His righteousness, His justice, and His wrath, as well as His grace and mercy . . . and His patience!

Jesus’ death paved the way for a new, better covenant. The Old Testament could not merely be removed; it had to first be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-19). Jesus did that, in part by fulfilling the Law’s shadows of His death itself (e.g., the Passover). Any testament requires the death of the testator; one involving forgiveness of sins must be ratified by blood (Hebrews 9:16ff). Jesus’ blood accomplished that, too.

Jesus’ death also provided a perfect example for us: of love, of devotion to God’s will, of humility, of handling ourselves properly in unjust situations, etc. (1 Peter 2:21-24). What godliness it has inspired through the ages!

What is your view of the cross?

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