Melvin Newland tells a story about a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck.
One day she was approached by a man who said to her, “Little girl, don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing.”
To which the girl replied, “Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday School that whatever Jesus touches, He changes.”
Indeed He does! And it’s never more apparent than in the cross. Too often the cross is reduced to mere images. Pictures. Icons. But the cross has a message. Meaning. And significance.
To a skeptical Grecian world, the apostle to the Gentiles penned, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (I Cor 1:18, NASU).
The word of the cross. Think about some of the words that described the cross and Jesus’ death
Shameful. Jesus died a shameful death. One reserved for criminals. Like the thieves on each side. It was a disgraceful death.
Despised. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be “despised and rejected by men.” (Isa. 53:3) In his death on the cross He was scorned. Hated. Detested.
Mocked. As he hung on the cross he was ridiculed by the soldiers. By those who walked by. By the unbelievers. But the contempt began earlier in his ministry “when he came unto His own, and they did not receive him.”
Blasphemy. The Jews charged him with being a blasphemer. Guilty of Sacrilege. A traitor. Jesus claimed to be Deity. That God was His father. For that “outrageous” claim He was killed.
No wonder the spiritually unenlightened, erudite thinkers of Paul’s day considered preaching the cross “foolishness.” Yet, to the believer, the cross speaks a more enlightened, meaningful, and significant vocabulary.
The word of the cross proclaims…
…Power. We see the power of God. The power of the gospel. The power of the blood. The power of the resurrection. In what was perceived as weakness became a symbol of power.
…Reconciliation. The cross became the means of uniting Jews and Gentiles. (Eph 2:16) Men and women. Servants and Masters. Of bringing people into a relationship with God. Being right with God.
…Peace. In the irony of all ironies, the brutality and cruelty of the cross produced peace. Peace with God. Inner peace. Peace with other people. Jesus reigns as the “prince of peace.” His sacrifice brought security. Serenity. Tranquility.
…Grace. God’s grace. Amazing grace. In the words of Julia Johnston, “Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace…Grace that will pardon and cleanse within…Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” God’s grace gives comforts. Provides relief. Promises redemption. And offers Divine communion (Eph. 2:1-10).
…Love. The cross emphatically cries “God loves you!” It was love that stood up to the savage scouring that often killed lesser men. It was love that bore the cross to Calvary. It was love that willingly allowed God in the flesh to be nailed to that old rugged cross. It was love the endured the agony, suffered the indignity, and experienced its anguish. It was love that said, “Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” It was love triumphant in death.
…Mercy. It’s said that grace gives what we don’t deserve. And mercy withholds what we do deserve. Divine mercy for mankind sent Jesus to the cross. Mercy, not the nails, held him there. Mercy heard and answered the plaintive plea of a thief who deserved to die. Mercy endured the pain, suffered shame, and died alone. Mercy paid the penalty for our sin at the cross.
…Salvation. Yes, to us who have received salvation, the cross is the power of God. The cross is the means by which we have access to the Divine promise Cleansing of sins. Salvation not only from past sins but present and future. sins. Salvation that provides eternal aspirations.
The “word of the cross” is not a single word. But a message that fills our hearts with words of praise, thanksgiving, and hope.
What word does the cross speak to you?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman