The Cross: God’s symbol of Love

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

“Love so amazing, so divine; demands my soul, my life, my all.” (Hymn writer, Isaac Watts 1674-1748)

The cross was a well-known instrument of torture and a symbol of shame used by the Romans in first century Israel as a deterrent to those considered common criminals. It brought about slow and painful death. At the end of it all, the bodies were left there at the mercy of the vultures to feed. It was that kind of treatment that the members of the supreme Jewish religious body, the Sanhedrin, wanted to subject our Lord Jesus to.

He had been classified as ‘rebel and impostor’ for having humiliated them on a number of occasions. Their plan to lay hands on Him had succeeded and their intention was to get rid of Him fast before the crowds got wind of their mischief. He had throughout His ministry overshadowed their image to become very popular with the crowd. Because of that, they wanted Him dead!

After a time they succeeded in manipulating the crowd that heartily hailed Jesus’ on His triumphant entry into Jerusalem with shouts of ‘Hosanna!’ Save us! ‘Hosanna!’ Save us! to change their tune to ‘Crucify Him!’ ‘Crucify Him!’

However what they failed to realise, as custodians of the Scriptures, was that they were carrying out the prophecies contained in the Word of God - that the Messiah would suffer, die and be raised from the dead. Obviously, they had not read the Scriptures or if they did, they ignored the prophecies concerning Him.

In the Book of Genesis when God cursed the serpent for deceiving Adam and Eve, He said: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise and tread your head under foot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15 Amplified Version)

Through the writings of the prophet Isaiah we learn that the Messiah would be “... despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)

In the Old Testament, Moses once had to plead with God on behalf of the Children of Israel -- who were dying from poisonous snake bites in great numbers -- to pardon their sins and save them from destruction as a result of the sins they had committed. God then asked him to “ ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ ” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” (Number 21:8-9) 

In the early stages of Jesus’ ministry He alluded to this event by stating; “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15) It is obvious from this statement that Jesus was saying that He was the resurrection and the life; that if all who are guilty of sin come to Him they will live and not die.

Our Lord Jesus came therefore to liberate us from the curse and shame; for anyone who was hanged on a tree was cursed.  “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ ” (Galatians 3:13)

A unique act of Love

Our Lord Jesus went willingly to the cross as an act of love. He told His disciples that He would lay His life down and would take it back. He was not under any duress when He made such a declaration. He was simply doing His Father’s bidding by laying down His life for the sheep. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17-18) 

A 17th century hymn writer, Isaac Watts, adequately captures this in one of his hymns; “See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorry and love flow mingle down. Did ever such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.” (Methodist hymn Book 182, third stanza)

God the Father had spoken through His prophet Jeremiah to portray His love for His creation: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3) This was manifested at the cross.

What was intended to be an object of shame God turned into a symbol of love; love for all humanity! God’s love is unconditional, all-surpassing and all-inclusive. This brings to mind the declaration Joseph made to his brothers after he had revealed himself to them as the prime minister of Egypt. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)  Unknowingly, what the Jews did to God’s Son turned out to be God’s bidding. They were simply executing God plans for humanity. 

All things considered, if God has given up His son for our sakes, we must also recognise what He has done for us. The apostle Peter sums it up so well with; “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed for the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Our indebtedness to Christ Jesus for the sacrifice He conceded on the cross for humanity is immense. “You are not your own. You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20) underscored the apostle Peter. The apostle John also admonishes us to reciprocate Jesus’ love.

Our Lord Jesus did not wait until we were lovable for Him to love us nor did He wait for us to make the first move, He loved us regardless. And so, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

The finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross was spontaneous. He stepped in because we could not help ourselves. In our helpless state, the hymn writer Charles Wesley penned: “He left His Father’s throne above -- so free, so infinite His grace --- emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race. ‘Tis (It is) mercy all, immense and free...” (Methodist Hymn Book 371, third stanza.)

God still showers love on His children, those who have accepted the sacrifice of His Son made to save humanity. He alone could pay the price of sin. When sin came into the world it soured the relationship between God and His Creation. To repair the broken relationship, God sent His Son in the person of Jesus Christ.

Have you tasted of His love yet? Begin to build on the premise that Jesus Christ Ioves you in spite of what you have done or where you have been. Knit a relationship with Him and live!