THE NAKED SPLENDOR OF THE CROSS
GLORYING IN THE CROSS! MY Sermon this Sunday will be, “THE SACRED SPLENDOR OF HIS CROSS” Of all the methods of redemption that the Father might have chosen, the cross is certainly the cruelest. This Roman method of execution was intended to exact the most unforgettable death possible. A prophet of old wrote, “cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” (Deuteronomy 21:23 / Galatians 3:13) The providence of God established that death by public exposure from the bough of a tree was degrading and condemning. It was reserved for the worst of criminals. The Assyrians actually impaled their victims by driving the sharpened stake up the back and then planting the stake in public. Any method of hanging by a tree was ordained to be cruel and dehumanizing to the victim.
It is quite amazing to see what the death of Christ has done to this instrument of cruelty. Travel to the dark regions of heathenism and you will find crosses erected over bamboo churches calling the natives to consider Jesus. Even the most educated of cities and cathedrals of great wealth will dot the city with ornate crosses at the highest level of its towers. Crosses have been banished by the despot of terror only to outlive the dictator in the end. The cross has outlasted many reigns of unbelieving kings, armies of masquerading heathens, and horrific invasions by infidels. The cross is truly the world’s statue of liberty. Where the cross is embraced, no death is hopeless.
It was the Son of God hanging on this cruel instrument that stripped it of its venom. He did not remove the curse of the cross by His heavenly host attacking with drawn sword, but by submitting to its horrors. When they nailed the Son of God with dripping blood to His tree, the very ground where it was planted turned into an earthquake. The unbeatable Roman Army watched in terror and proclaimed, “Truly this must have been the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54) Even as He died on this cruel tree, an invisible hand reached across the Kedron Valley and rent the veil that opened into the Shekinah of His Father’s temple. The cross had become the scene of naked splendor.
Out of that naked splendor we hear Him proclaim, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) His mother was tenderly transferred to an Apostle’s care, while a dying thief was forgiven of his sins and was promised a private reunion later in the day. He said, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) This cross could not be conquered except He bear it alone. Therefore, His Father turned His back while the only begotten Son cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) From this cross He would rob hell and populate heaven. From this dark splendor of redemption He would open the prison house of death and redeem every believing soul of sin’s power to damn. Satan and his entire host were rendered their final judgment. As He stripped the cross of its terror, He proclaimed the unforgettable proclamation, “It is finished.”
The cross of Jesus Christ divided time for eternity, united the two Testaments in redemption, stripped death of all its power, paid the total price of Adam’s transgression, guaranteed His and our resurrection, and settled the future of His saints.
The cross is where the Eternal Testator sealed the Testaments with His blood. There can be no victory against the cross and there is no victory without the cross. God has called His chosen to preach it, live by it, die by it, and He will resurrect us because of it. There is no glory without it and no gloom can continue because of it. Apostle Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14) This naked splendor in the wisdom of God is a mystery. This same Apostle said “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (I Corinthians 2:8) The cross they used against Him became the cross He used for them. It is the only symbol that should ever adorn His sanctuary and to remove it is to write “Ichabod” over the House of God.