The cross was intended to stop him.
The religious leaders wanted the man who threatened their grip on power gone.
They did not want some poor carpenter from Galilee crashing their turf, upturning tables, calling them liars and thieves. They claimed to be righteous and holy men who lived to serve God, but they lived only for themselves; and Jesus was about to ruin everything.
They wanted and expected a Messiah who would quell the mighty Roman army with a single swipe, ending the oppression that had been known for nearly a century. They wanted their world to change dramatically for the better without altering their way of life.
But Jesus wasn’t that type of savior. Jesus didn’t come to kick butts, he came to transform hearts. Their hearts. And what he asked of them was messy, uncouth, and dangerous. They existed to preserve, protect and execute the law and Jesus with his dirty band of ruffian followers was healing on the sabbath and asking them to put down their stones instead of hurling them deserving adulteresses. It was more than they could handle.
Obsessed with silencing the voice of the man they labeled as a lunatic and blasphemer, they appealed to their governing authorities. And when the decree sentencing Jesus to death by crucifixion was announced, they sighed with relief and smiled smugly.
They got what they needed, or at least what they thought they needed.Finally, after of trying to get rid of the captivating teacher who spoke in parables, they won. Or so they thought. When I researched the meaning of the word Pharisee, I was stunned at the irony I found. Pharisee is derived from the Hebrewפרושים perushim from פרוש parush, which means separated. Those claiming to be men of God, could not have been farther from Him. They separated themselves from truth.
Jesus was captured, stripped of his clothing and his dignity. Spit from filthy mouths stained his holy face. Whips tore skin off his back and legs. Vicious words were flung into the ears of God’s son. Battered and bloodied beyond recognition, Jesus carried the heavy crossbeam until he broke underneath its weight.
When he arrived at the site of his execution, soldiers roughly restrained him and nailed his body to a cross. A cross that was most likely already stained by the blood of another condemned man. To those carrying out the sentence, Jesus was just another criminal to use as an example.
The cross was then erected. There Jesus hung until his lungs exhaled the last of their air. After Jesus uttered the words “it is finished,” those who had been waiting for that moment felt victorious. Satan, probably cackled and howled with delight (just imagining the sound sends the hair on my arms upward), because God’s son who was sent to save the world was dead.
The cross had changed everything. Evil triumphed, or at least that’s how it seemed. No days in history were darker than that Good Friday and the first Saturday that followed. Because on those days, hope stopped existing. No one knew the promise of Sunday.
Friday was violent and horrific. Saturday was black, dank, and heavy. Sunday would be the same, except it wasn’t.
On the third day, Christ seized complete victory.
His heart began beating again, his lungs took in air. He shook off the pounds of burial spices, unwrapped the linens from his once tattered body, and moved the boulder that blocked entrance to his tomb. Neither spirit or hallucination, Jesus walked out of that grave alive and whole.
The cross didn’t work they way it was intended. It could not silence Jesus. But the cross was necessary. The cross was a weapon of the world that God reshaped as a bridge to new life.
And if God could take a murderous plot and instrument of torture and grace them into vessels of redemption and restoration what would make us think that he doesn’t do that still today?
My heart aches when I think about the suffering Christ endured on that brutal Friday. Yet my soul rejoices in the victory of Easter. I am a woman covered with flaws. Next to God, I appear as grimy and spineless as an earth worm, but because of the cross, I am clean, forgiven and wanted.
Because of the cross, sin’s curse has been crushed, which means that all of the agony induced by champions of evil won’t triumph. Even when it looks like the bad guys are winning … they aren’t.
Because of the cross, beauty will sprout from the ashes of every fire meant to suffocate peace.
Because of the cross, I know that my pain is never without purpose. I know that even when time, desires, circumstances and the intentions of others turn against me like a dart toward a balloon that defeat cannot envelop me.
Because of the cross, I can hold my children tight and assure them that no matter how lonely this world gets, hope hovers close.
Because of the cross, I am confident that the most glorious moments I have been given in this lifetime will pale in comparison to what’s ahead for me in the next.
Because of the cross, I can choose to have love, peace, and joy present in my life every single day without exception. I can accept what the Pharisees’ refused.
Because of the cross, ordinary folks like you and me can bring solace to the suffering, and even when it feels like it’s too small to matter, it matters. It matters because of the cross.
So when you feel defeated … when you shake your balled up fist toward heaven and wonder if God really cares, remember the cross. Remember that before the cross could be recreated into something with miraculous beauty, it was cruelly grotesque. That’s the way of hope.
There is a second chance for each human being, all because of the cross.
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (Col. 2:13-15-NLT)