We sing our song. We collectively call the cross of Christ wonderful. We call it glorious. An instrument used for torture, a jacked piece of wood whose purpose is to draw out the life blood of what would have typically been society’s worst criminals, and this is the object we cheerfully sing about on every Lord’s day morning.
So why do we do it? Forgiveness of sins? Yes. To provide eternal life to all who believe? Yes. However, with these essential and glorious truths of Easter weekend, we say these things with the knowledge of knowing Easter is coming. We know what will happen. God has raised Christ from the dead and through his resurrection we have the assurance of our faith and the forgiveness of sin. Paul leaves no room for question when he writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17 “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Peter affirms this statement in 1 Peter 1:3 by saying “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” There is still yet another reason why we can call the cross wonderful, even this side of Easter Sunday. Even on the dark day known as Good Friday.
Genesis 1:1-2 begins the biblical story of a God who speaks and creates. He does so with all power and glory because of his good pleasure, that is, because of his will. Revelation 4:11 testifies to that fact. Interesting that when God created, he first brought about what the bible calls a “formless and void” earth that was engulfed in “darkness.” God speaks, out of his good pleasure, and brings about a formless and void earth in total darkness.
Move ahead in time to Luke 22, Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Once again, God is speaking. This time not to an empty nothing to bring about a dark void, but this time he speaks to his son. What He brings about, however, is similar. Darkness. It is inevitable for the question to not be asked on Good Friday: Who Killed Jesus? The Romans? The Jews? Us? The answer is, of course, yes to all those things. But ultimately, it was God who placed his willing son on the tree. Isaiah 53:5-6 is a text we love to quote, “he was bruised for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. . .” For some reason, we never quite make it to verse 10. “Yet it was the pleasure (will) of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief. . .” Revelation 4:11 and Isaiah 53:10 speak of God in the same way, bringing about his will, his good pleasure. In the former, it is the creation. In the latter, the crucifixion.
How does this help to understand the wonder of the cross?
Because God continued to speak. He took the darkness, the chaos, the formless and void earth and continued to speak until he had his perfect creation, a creation to which God himself called “good.” Even though God first brought about darkness, he continued to speak, continued to work to make it perfect. The same is true for the cross of Christ. After Jesus prays for God to remove the cup if he was willing, which God was not, Luke describes an angel coming to comfort Jesus. Perhaps the very presence of the angel was the confirmation that God was going to continue to speak in the life of Jesus. The crucifixion, that darkness that God was bringing out would not be the last word of God. Just as Jesus had spoken the very words that brought Lazarus from the grave, God would continue to speak the words that would bring light to what was once darkness and pain.
And here we are in our dark, painful, confusing lives. Friend, whatever God has brought about, whatever darkness is in your life today, he will continue to speak.
And that is what makes the cross wonderful. It is in God’s hands. And if we follow the example of Jesus and submit to that hand, the will of God, with love and sacrifice, then we too can be assured of seeing God speaking light out of our darkness.
And with that I wait with anticipation to Easter Sunday.