blessed display of God’s love and Wrath
In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’re the wrecks of time; All the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.
One of the most enduring symbols of the Christian faith is the cross. We see it displayed in most Christian churches and people even wear it as a piece of jewelry around their neck (though certainly without thinking of the shame and horror the cross had in the first century, being a symbol of painful execution). And we have many songs about the cross … “The Old Rugged Cross” … “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” … “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” … “Near the Cross” … “Hallelujah for the Cross.”
It is understandable that the cross would have a place in the minds of many people, even people who are not Christians, because what happened on the cross of Jesus Christ (together with the resurrection) is the central event of the whole of human history. Like no other display by the eternal God, the cross is a demonstration of two of His infinite attributes … His love and His wrath (though other attributes are on display as well).
When we think of the cross, we usually think of God’s love. And well we should because the Scriptures associate the death of Christ with the love of God.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever
believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Jn 3:16
But God shows His love for us, in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us. Rom 5:8
In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His
Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 Jn 4:10
The cross of Jesus Christ is a magnificent exhibition of the love of God for rebellious people, who, left to themselves, always choose something else over God as the greatest prize of their souls (cf. Isa 53:6; Rom 1:21; 3:11). No one ever loved us, nor ever will love us, like the eternal God. One evidence of the magnitude of His love is the value of His gift. He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all (Rom 8:32). What we have here is a Father, giving His only Son to be executed in the place of His enemies … an infinite Father, Himself putting to death His eternal Son. The ultimate answer to the question, “Who killed Jesus?” is God the Father. According to a remarkable verse in Isaiah 53 “The LORD [God the Father] was pleased to crush Him [God the Son], putting Him to grief” (Isa 53:10 – NAS). This action on the part of God the Father rose, according to John 3:16, from His love for us. It is a truly awesome event.
But the cross is not only a demonstration of God’s love. It is also an amazing display of His wrath. When Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, ”My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” the cup He was referring to was the cup of the wrath of the Father. The Old Testament makes a connection between the imagery of drinking a cup and the angry judgment of God against sin. The Jews drank from the cup of God’s anger (Isa 51:17). In Ezekiel 23, God’s warning to Judah is that the same divine judgment that came to Israel would come to her. “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘You shall drink your sister’s cup that is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much; you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria'” (Ezek 23:32,33). And the wicked of the earth must drink of the bitter cup of God’s wrath. “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs” (Psa 75:8). Jesus drank the cup of the Father’s anger … the cup we deserved to drink.
In the cross of Christ, God the Father showers us with His love by pouring out His wrath on His own Son. In the singular act of the crucifixion of the eternal Son, the justice of the Father is satisfied so that sinners who are in Christ can be accepted into His holy presence. At once, the mercy of God is shown to be majestic and the wrath of God is shown to be awesome.
When these truths grip our soul, we are filled with joy and wonder and hope. We begin to sing with confidence . . .
When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; For God, the Just, is satisfied To look on Him and pardon me, To look on Him and pardon me.
Humbled and delighted by Christ’s cross,