Sunday, July 1, 2012

Could You Have Borne to Look?

What do you think of when you look at this picture? A beautiful piece of jewelry? Christianity? Jesus? Images of the cross are very popular, even in this post-Christian culture. Believers and unbelievers wear them, but when worn by a follower of Jesus Christ, they take on a special meaning. It is not just an adornment but a symbol of love and grace, of the price that we never could have paid. I think that cross-centered jewelry, such as this piece, is beautiful, an expression of the artist's skill and a representation of the most important moment in history. But, seeing this intracately woven gold pendant takes something away from what the cross really means. Consider this quote by Corrie ten Boom as she reflects on her time in a Nazi concentration camp:

He hung naked on the cross. I had not known--I had not thought... The paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh--at the time itself, on that other Friday morning--there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now.

How often do we stop to consider what the cross really means, what it meant to Jesus who hung there for hours, what it meant to the disciples who watched the life ebb from the man that held all their hope? The cross was an instrument of torture, not unlike the concentration camp where Corrie ten Boom and her sister suffered. Death did not come in one fell swoop, but every day, every hour crawled a little closer. It was the same for Christ, first the abandonment, then the taunts, then the beating, and finally the cross itself. There was no relief.

We might be shocked or disgusted to find a religion that uses the guillotine or the electric chair as the symbol of their faith. Why are we offended? The guillotine is mercifully quick and the electric chair completely bloodless. Not so with the cross, but it has been shrouded in history and embellished by religion.

So I come to my title. If you had been there, could you have borne to look at what the Romans were doing? Could you have borne to watch them strip a man naked, nail Him to a rough plank of wood, and turn away while He suffocated. Furthermore, could you have stood to gaze at this swollen, bleeding man, all the while knowing that He was the Alpha and Omega, Creator of all the universe, and that He hung there because of the sins that you have committed. I know that I couldn't have borne it.

And even more, the horrific physical pain that Jesus suffered could only barely compare to the spiritual pain as He was separated from God and experienced the complete punishment for sins that were infinitely severe in a way that only an infinite Being could. The earth quaked as the Giver of Life staggered under the weight of sin and death. As His Son hung naked on the cross, God the Father rent His own garment, tearing the veil of the temple in two.

One line from the old spiritual "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord" reads, "Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble." May we never forget with what we have been bought, and may we never cease to tremble--tremble with joy because even the horrors of the cross could not defeat the Son of God! 


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