In past years, the church we attended had a tradition on Good Friday to provide a quiet, meditative service. We wrote our sins on small scraps of paper, and nailed them to a wooden cross. The only sound in that service was the rap, rap, rap of those nails. As we meditated we also read scripture quietly, pondering the humble, loving sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Today I share a bit of that meditation here – hoping these words will draw your mind and soul to God in worship.
God’s strength was demonstrated in humility.
- He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:2 -3)
- Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
The mighty “arm of the Lord” is revealed not as a stately king but as one who was despised and rejected. Jesus left heaven, left glory, to humble himself, to take on human flesh, to serve, to seek out the lost, and then to die – the ultimate act of obedience out of great love.
The punishment for our sin was laid on Jesus.
- But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
- For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)
God was not angry at Jesus.
- In divine nature they are one.
- Jesus was God’s beloved son.
- God’s wrath was about sin not about His son.
Instead, in my imagination, I see Jesus stepping into our world, stepping up to the gallows, and shouting, “I’ll pay her debt!” Jesus willingly bore our sin on the cross, it was a substitutionary death – He paid a debt He did not owe so that we – (you and I) could come into a right relationship with God – to bring us to God!
We are rescued through the power of the cross.
- For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
- For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:3)
Some mock the cross, but to those of us who believe, the cross is a demonstration of God’s power, love, humility in establishing the new covenant! It is by God’s will that we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus the Messiah, once for all. We are transformed, made new in the cross. We are rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into God’s kingdom. It is in Christ we have forgiveness, redemption, life to the full!
I love the visual imagery of castles and knights. I love the contrast between the dark, shadowy castle built high on a craggy, ominous looking cliff and the light-filled silvery castle in the midst of beautiful gardens with a lively stream, birds chirping, a song in the air. When Jesus called me to Himself, He planted me in His kingdom of life and light!
The cross was first and foremost about love!
- But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
- This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)
- He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:16, 17, 19)
Jesus submitted to the cross, laying down His life for us, because He loved us. This is the definition of love – a willingness to sacrifice oneself for the flourishing of another. I love how the Psalmist describes being rescued – because “he delighted in me!” And that’s so true. Jesus delighted in us then – in that moment on the cross – in the midst of that great battle when he laid down his life for you and me. He even loved us before the foundation of the world, when he chose us and prepared the kingdom for us! AND He delights in us now!
The cross demands a response!
- If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
- “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37)
- For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:15-17)
He gave his life for me, out of love laid His life down!
How can I not give him my all?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty Rock
within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness,
a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat
and the burden of the day.
Upon the cross of Jesus
mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One
who suffered there for me:
and from my stricken heart with tears
two wonders I confess,
the wonders of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.
I take, O cross, thy shadowElizabeth Cecilia Clephane (1868)
for my abiding place:
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss;
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross.