Was there such a thing as the cross? Was Christ actually crucified? Did those who clamoured for His death really cry: “Crucify Him, crucify Him”? If so, would not an easier and less agonizing mode of death have sufficed? If death were necessary at all, could not a quiet sunset, like that of Moses, who passed away under the eye of God alone, have been the kind of departure which became the greatest of all prophets?
Why the cross? Why “even the death of the cross”—for the word ‘even’ is clearly used in order to draw especial attention to the nature of the death through which our most blessed Lord passed. This fact is signified by that which follows: “Wherefore God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name above every name
Having taken, in infinite grace, the very lowest, the most degraded and derogatory position, God at once places Him in the highest and most glorious; and decrees that to Him “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father”. The exaltation is commensurate with, and is the only adequate acknowledgment of, His voluntary and absolute humiliation. The height is measured by the depth, and the honour by the unparalleled dishonour. The cross means ignominy. Let us lay hold of that.
Death was necessary if sin had to be atoned for. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Divine judgment had to be executed on the sinner’s Substitute. “The Son of man must be lifted up”, and in that act the Lord was “made a curse for us”, “made sin for us”.
It was not His suffering at the cruel hand of man, calling forth, as it rightly does, our sympathy and tears, that could work atonement; but it was the far deeper suffering for sin under judgment, that alone could meet the question of sin, our sins, black, vile and numberless as they are. He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” The Goat died on which Jehovah’s lot had fallen. There are two great reasons why ignominy, reproach and shame attach to the cross. First, it exposes man in the totality of his guilt; it demonstrates, beyond controversy, that he is fallen, sinful and utterly impotent in the matter of his own salvation. He is ‘without strength’. And, secondly, it casts a pall on all the glory of this world. It writes ‘Ichabod’ on man, and tells him that that which he “highly esteems is abomination in the sight of God”. No wonder then that he should hate the cross of Christ. Nothing could more effectually humble him. Oh! it was not the gracious life of the Lord Jesus that made Him an object of hatred, but His constant moral descent to the death of the cross. That was His one objective. “Can ye drink of My cup?” was the test He applied, and still applies, to those who follow Him.
No wonder that this ignominious cross is repudiated by the world, if not, also, by the professing church, which is, alas, indistinguishable from it. A crucified Christ is the Divine test of fidelity to Him. Studious reader, may I ask you to peruse prayerfully the moral bearings of the cross in the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, tracing the spiritual purport and intention of its instructions in that section of holy Scripture. See how it is set in striking antithesis to the world in its various forms. If the cross is of God, the world is shown to be of the enemy, Satan.
Hence the cross has a sanctifying power. It separates the heart and life of the true disciple from the ways of the world, whether in its gross evil, or in its religion, or philosophy; or, indeed, anything and everything that is not of God. The choice of the Christian lies between the world and the cross. And which, dear reader, shall it be with you?
Oh! let there be a clear, definite, uncompromising breach between you and the world. Fear not to make it. Let the glories of Calvary fascinate your whole soul today, and until you are lost in the answering glories of His presence in the joy of the Father’s house on high.
I do not know a more dreadful characterization of mortal man than that they should be “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). They were not open rejecters of His name, nay, they ‘walked’ in the outward profession of it; but of His cross and its unworldly demands they were enemies!
Do such exist today? Do you, or I, dear reader, profess His name and shirk His cross? If so, our profession is to be estimated by our depreciation of it. He, for our sakes, despised its shame; may we, for His sake, make it our glory. May we daily take our stand, in spirit and most grateful affection, on the “green spot outside the city walls”, and let our selfish hearts be melted in the ways of His dying love, so that our willing feet may travel in His holy ways. “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).