Of the many paradoxes of Good Friday, one of the strangest is the way in which Jesus’ death transformed something totally ugly into something stunningly beautiful. Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for the worst of the enemies of the state. It was cheap—prisoners could be nailed to any tree and left to hang there till dead. It was public—the passersby could come by and gawk, suitably discouraged from committing such crimes. And it was excruciating—beheading was instantaneous, but a crucifixion victim could linger in agony for days.
The Romans’ worst punishment was God’s choice for the punishing of his Son, whom he now considered to be the worst sinner of all time. The prophet Isaiah, seven centuries before Christ, was allowed to look into the future to see the strange way in which salvation for the human race would be won. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). There is no longer any condemnation or punishment for those who believe in Christ. His precious body was pierced by dreadful nails; his precious wounds bring you healing.
The death of Jesus has transformed an instrument of torture into a symbol of inspiration for our churches. The cross has become our logo, our “mark.” We use it for artistic decoration, place it atop our steeples, and hang it above our altars. It is now such a beautiful symbol that Christians use it as jewelry.
Wear your cross with pride.
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
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