When I Survey: 4 Things to See When You See the Cross

“Run, John, run!” the law commands,
but finds me neither feet nor hands.
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids me fly and gives me wings.
-John Bunyan¹

Resurrection Sunday weekend is an excellent time to reflect on the death of Jesus and his resurrection. Here are 4 things I have been thinking about this weekend as I have contemplated the beauty and power of Jesus’ cross.²

4 Things to See When You See the Cross:

1. Guilt

In the gospel, we find a central problem at the beginning of our story: man is guilty of cosmic treason against God. The Bible says that our sin (in both our nature and through our actions) makes us enemies with God (Romans 5:10-14). Therefore, the cross of Christ is first a symbol of your guilt—a siren screaming into the void that your sin is real, and it’s costly.

Jesus didn’t go to the cross because we needed an example to look to or a little bit of assistance with our deficit; he went to the cross because we’re totally bankrupt and in need of a bailout. Our best efforts and noblest attempts to appease God with good works all fall woefully short. The cross outs all of us as desperate, in need of a righteousness outside of ourselves.

2. Pain

Obvious, yes, but absolutely worth mentioning. Jesus endured tremendous pain in both the cross and all of the events surrounding it. When he was arrested, his closest friends deserted him and would later deny him before others. He was convicted in a sham trial before the Sanhedrin, publicly slandered, and paraded around in humiliation to different government officials. Then, he was beaten, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and pierced with a spear.

After all of that, he hung on the cross in the presence of God—an innocent man, carrying the full weight of sin for all of God’s elect. The amount of emotional, physical and spiritual pain Jesus endured should be front and center as we survey the cross, because when we see the heights of Jesus’ agony, we can begin to understand the depths of his love.

3. Love

The Bible nowhere paints a picture of a needy God. God did not create humanity out of his loneliness or boredom. Nor did he reconcile his children to himself and save under any sense of compulsion. Frankly put, God does not now, nor has he ever needed us. Yet, we see in the Bible that God delights in his children, that he cares for them and loves them (Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 147:11, John 3:16).

In understanding our guilt, we recognize that we do not deserve the Father’s love. In reading of Christ’s suffering, we calculate the monumentally steep cost of redemption. But when we consider these things together, the math seems to break down, to fail us.  If we were to try to quantify the value of our souls, we’d admit that our souls are the most expensive things (because it cost to redeem them is so high) and simultaneously the most worthless things (because we are so sinful) there are. If something has a low value and a steep cost, it’s a bad buy. So, why on earth would God save us?

Fortunately for us, value isn’t ascribed to an object because of its inherent worth. Things are worth what someone is willing to pay for them. What we clearly see in the cross of Jesus is that God has placed a very high value on us; he dearly loves us. To him, we’re not a bad buy, and that he redeemed us at such a high price while we were still sinners, proves the richness of his love for us (Romans 5:6-8).

4. Hope

Lastly, we should look to the cross and find great hope. Who would have thought that at the world’s darkest hour, the seeds of glory and redemption would be sown? Yet, in the cross, we have a historical moment we can look back to and be ever encouraged that, though we were ill-deserving, though it was incredibly costly, God has once and for all dealt with our sin. It would be so easy to envision the horror of the cross and be sullen and downcast, but because of these things, when I look to the cross, I am filled with hope.

Here would be my urgent call to all of us: Look at the cross and see your guilt, see Christ’s pain and see his matchless love for you, then look a little longer, look a little closer and find also the hope.

¹This quote is often attributed to John Bunyan (Spurgeon claimed it is from Bunyan), but—like many famous quotes of people long dead—he may have never actually said it. It’s possible the quote came from 18th century Scottish preacher, Ralph Erksine. Here for more: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/run-john-run/

²For context and clarity (if you’re not a Christian): Christians believe that every person in existence is in desperate need of reconciliation with God. Our sin makes us enemies with God, and we need his forgiveness. Jesus never sinned and offered himself as a sacrifice in our place. Because he took his sin upon us when he died, God’s wrath was satisfied in the punishment he bore for us, and “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

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