What was a crucifixion? Let us try to realize it, and understand its misery. The person crucified was laid on his back on a piece of timber, with a cross-piece nailed to it near one end – or on the trunk of a tree with branching arms, which answered the same purpose. His hands were spread out on the cross-piece, and nails driven through each of them, fastening them to the wood. His feet in like manner were nailed to the upright part of the cross. And then, the body having been securely fastened, the cross was raised up, and fixed firmly in the ground. And there hung the unhappy sufferer until pain and exhaustion brought him to his end – not dying suddenly, for no vital part of him was injured – but enduring the most excruciating agony from his hands and feet, and unable to move.
Such was the death of the cross. Such was the death that Jesus died for us! For six long hours He hung there before a gazing crowd, naked, and bleeding from head to foot – His head pierced with thorns – His back lacerated with scourging – His hands and feet torn with nails – and mocked and reviled by His cruel enemies to the very last.
Let us meditate frequently on these things. Let us often read over the story of Christ’s cross and passion. Let us remember, not least, that all these horrible sufferings were born without a murmur. No word of impatience crossed our Lord’s lips. In His death, no less than in His life, He was perfect. To the very last, Satan found nothing in Him. (John 14:30.)
The city of Rome is built upon seven hills and standing in the center of those hills forged between the remains of the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus is the Palatine Hill. In 1857, there was a significant archaeological find there when a building called domus Gelotiana was unearthed. Found inside was an inscription carved into plaster of a human figure attached to a cross with the head of a donkey. Over the right shoulder of the depiction of Jesus Christ is a Greek letter of upsilon or a tau cross and to the left is an image of a young man named Alexamenos. And the caption attached to the carving, written in crude Greek, states Αλεξαμενος ϲεβετε θεον, or Alexamenos worships his God.
Here Alexamenos, a Christian, is being mocked for worshiping Jesus and the work done on the cross while Jesus, Himself, is mocked as nothing more than a stupid animal. But here, in a 2,000 year old inscription, holds a truth that every Christian and every church should hold fast – stand firm and look to the cross.
The cross is a stumbling block and it is foolishness to the unsaved. It is offensive, hated, despised, disgusting, destructive, and taboo. It is a word that most churches do not use, nor even utter because it absolutely offends the unbeliever and extenuates their wretched state before God.
However, the cross is the power of God unto salvation. It is lovingkindness, grace, mercy, forgiveness, atonement, and that which needs to be rejoiced. The great churches use this word and along with Paul “determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
If your church does not have cross-centered preaching and rejoices in the cross, then run as fast as you can to a church that is. If you are not ready to fall on your knees and worship in the face of ridicule to the glory of the cross, then think about your sin and think about the Savior on the cross paying the price for that sin. If you enjoy listening to feel-good, motivational messages over one that proclaims the amazing God and His work on the cross, then check your motives for coming to Christ.
As Paul stated in Galatians 6:14, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Rejoice and worship the true Lamb of God just as Alexamenos did and be ready to take the ridicule and mockery because our Lord went through so much more to ransom us from our debt before God.
Stauros is probably the most dangerous Greek word ever devised. It is foolishness to many, a stumbling block to others, unknown to some, despised and ridiculed by countless, and eternal life to those who are chosen.
Stauros (σταυρός) is the Greek word for cross which was used in the Bible for the method of execution of Jesus on that fateful Friday. And that execution was done with a planned purpose to put God’s ultimate glory on display for all to see throughout history.
There were four ways that Jesus’ death on the stauros glorified God and all are found in Romans 3:21-28 (from a sermon by John MacArthur):
21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
- The cross declared God’s righteousness. God’s standard is perfection and no sin can enter heaven. Each person has sinned and has fallen short of God’s absolute standard. But those who repent and have a saving faith in Jesus Christ have His perfect righteousness credited to their account.
- The cross satisfies God. Our sin still needs payment or else God is not a just judge. Just as a good judge in a courtroom would not be good if he just let off liars and murderers and thieves if they were sorry for their transgressions against the law. There needs to be a payment for that sin against a holy God and Jesus took on God’s wrath that should have been given to us.
- The cross puts God’s grace on display. There is no boasting. No one can work their way to perfection. The cross was all about God and the cross is all about grace. Unmerited favor. We get what we do not deserve which is forgiveness of our sins and a relationship with the God of this universe. All we do is believe – and that ability to believe is still a graceful gift from God. We rejoice in both our salvation as well as His righteousness and are indebted to Him for His amazing grace.
- The cross demonstrates God’s integrity. It is only through faith in the name of Jesus that man can be saved. There is only one name under heaven and earth that saves – and He died for all those who would ever believe while they all were still sinners. There is no greater love, no greater gift, no greater gracious act than this – that God would lay down His Son’s life for me.
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.2For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)