Straight to the Cross is a new book published by Forthright Press, an excellent book if I do say so myself (check out chapter three!). Straight to the Cross is where Jesus was destined to go from the moment Mary placed him in the manger. Straight to the Cross is where each of us must go if we ever want to find meaning in this life.
Taking people straight to the cross is our central message. “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) But when you stop to ponder the cross, it can really be a rather strange message.
Crucifixion — Emblem of Suffering and Shame
Death by crucifixion was the ultimate humiliation, the ultimate horror, and the ultimate degradation. Tacitus, a Roman Historian, spoke of crucifixion as “A torture fit only for slaves.” It was reserved for only the worst of criminals. The act was barbaric and inhumane. The victim was usually naked and the corpse was often left on the cross for the birds and animals to eat. Cicero called it, “The cruelest and the most horrible torture.”
The cross was not just any kind of death. Not only was it a painful death, but it was a shameful death. As the old hymn says, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.” Death on a cross, through the eyes of anyone during that time, was obscene and offensive.
One of the earliest drawings of a crucifixion dates from the early 3rd century. That drawing is ancient Roman “graffiti” that ridicules and mocks the Christian faith. This graffiti depicts a man with the head of a donkey being crucified on a cross. In the foreground is a worshipper with hands lifted high. Then this inscription is written just below the drawing: “Alexmenos worships his god!”
The drawing illustrates how contemptible the idea of a crucified Lord was to pagan thinking. No sane person would ever brag that his friend or relative had been crucified. Crucifixion was nothing of which to be proud! No sane person would ever boast that he was a follower of a movement whose leader was crucified.
So how is it that Paul, a Jewish rabbi, scarcely twenty years after Jesus’ execution could write, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
Straight to the Cross — We Need To Go
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).
Christ went to the cross for us when we were helpless and ungodly, when we were sinners. Christ went to the cross for us when we were enemies of God, when we were subject to his wrath.
We are not innocent. Our sin deserves punishment. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Straight to the Cross — Being Reconciled
What we need more than anything is reconciliation. Reconciliation is the doing away of hostility between warring parties. Every time Paul uses the word reconciliation, he does so in reference to the cross. For man to be reconciled to God, he must go straight to the cross. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:19-22).
What about you?
Will you go Straight to the Cross?