Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
“Why would they hang Jesus on something as wonderful as a cross?”
That’s the question my daughters posed to me the other day as we talked about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
They were scandalized to discover that the cross was such an instrument of torture. Baffled to find out that it’s only wonderful because of what Jesus did by dying on it. They had a few moments of difficulty getting their minds around the idea that a cross was always—in all cases—a terrible thing meant for terrible purposes. They had only thought of it in the context of what Jesus did on it; how he saved us by it.
They see the cross and know that it was an awful and painful thing Jesus went through to die for us, but they see the cross and are thankful. They are encouraged. It brings to their minds thoughts of heaven and hope for painless days to come. They imagine days of resting on the Father’s lap and times of wrestling with him. “Do you think we could pin him down if we all ganged up on him at once?! I mean all of us—all the people in heaven?!
They know that these hopes and dreams, these realities of the future, are only possible because of the cross, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They think of the cross and they think of all the hope and joy that it brings to us.
And we know that Jesus endured the cross with joy. He endured this instrument of depravity and destruction, this tool that kills in such a deplorable way, robbing the dying of humanity and dignity even as they lose life. He endured this torturous device with joy. He despised its shame, bringing glory and eternity to bear in the hearts of humankind.
He changed not only our thoughts of the cross, but also our future, our hope and even our very hearts. He took our shame and gave us his righteousness.
We should never forget the wickedness of such a device—meant not only to kill, but torture in the dying. It reveals the deep darkness of humanity’s heart. It proves the point the Father has made: we need a Savior. We need redeeming. But we should also see the cross and think of the joy of Jesus, dying to bring us life. The Father took the curse of the cross and made it a hope, a joy, a freeing from the shame.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Galatians 3:13