What do you see when you look at this cross?
Do you just see two pieces of wood? Planks and nails and a bolt between the two. A clever piece of design that’s managed to hold together for a number of years.
Or do you see a piece of jewellery? This cross might be massive, but many of us today will wear silver or gold replicas around our neck. Is this the most common form of the cross in our society today, relegated to a piece of bling for looking good?
Or perhaps you see Jesus. You see him in your mind’s eye, nailed to the cross, suffering, dying. It’s a hard image to maintain, but we’re helped by representations in the media, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Jesus Christ Superstar, The Passion of the Christ, even the Life of Brian all try to give some indication of what it must have been like for Jesus that Friday so many years ago.
But there is one more thing that we see when we look on the cross, and it was this revelation that inspired Jesus’ friends to begin speaking courageously and shamelessly about him. The simple truth is this – when we look at the cross we see ourselves.
We look at the cross and we see what life in a broken world does to us. We see what the effect of living amongst sin has on us. Isaiah chapter 53 has these simple but profound words to describe what Jesus was doing on the cross.
“But the fact is, it was our pains he carried- our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.”
When we look at the cross we see ourselves. We see what the world does to us. It crushes us, it wounds us, it nails us to what we don’t want to be nailed to and it ultimately destroys us.
But Isaiah continues,
“It was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him-our sins!”
When we look on the cross we don’t just see the wounds that we carry, we see honestly and openly what should happen to us. We see what happens when we sin. Isaiah again.
“God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.”
We look at the cross and we see how God should handle a people who have turned their backs on him, who deserve nothing better. Isaiah continues saying,
“He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.”
He took the punishment. This is the apostolic teaching of the cross. He took the punishment. We should suffer and die, but instead Jesus does, and in his death he achieves something marvellous. Everything that ever kept me from God is gone. Everything that has ever happened to me is washed away. Every time I have ever lived for myself and not for God is now history. I am healed. I am changed.
The moment I say to God “Yes, I believe that Jesus died for me – I accept that the cross is what I should experience for my rejection of you, but I thank you that Jesus has taken my place”, the moment I do that I look on the cross in a completely different light. He sends his Holy Spirit into me and makes me a new being – living for him and living with him.
Now I see the cross as an amazing design – not just a design of carpentry but God’s design, his plan for all time to help me, to get me out of the mess I find myself in, that I got myself in.
It is as beautiful as the most expensive diamond. It is an object that has a price I could never afford, not with all the money in the world.
I see Jesus, not just as a man of history but as the God of all time, lifted up and exalted, the one who saves me, the one who knows me, the one who will stay with me for ever and ever.
And I see myself – free of all that I have done wrong, free of the wounds and scars of a fallen world. I am now God’s. Nothing that happens to me will ever separate me from him.
I look at the cross and I see all that I will ever need.
What do you see?