We often hear the phrase “the crux of the matter” or “the crux of a situation.” The word crux comes from Latin and simply means “cross.” Why has the word crux come to be associated with a critical juncture or point in time? Because the cross of Jesus Christ is truly the crux of history. Without the cross, history itself cannot be defined or corrected.
There is another word we often hear when we are in the throes of indescribable pain—the word excruciating. That, too, derives from Latin and means “out of the cross.” Across time and human experience the cross has been the historical event that intersects time and space and speaks to the deepest hurts of the human heart.
But we live with more than pain and suffering. We also live with deep hungers within the human heart. These existentially gnaw at us with a desperate constancy. There are at least four such longings. The hunger for truth, as lies proliferate. The hunger for love, as we see hate ruling the day. The hunger for justice, as we see injustice mocking the law. The hunger for forgiveness, when we ourselves fail and stumble. These four stirrings grip the soul.
As I see it, there is only one place in the world where these four hungers converge. That is at the cross. I dare say, therefore, that in this mix of pain and longing the divine answer is restoring and sublime. For within the paradox of the cross is the coalescing of our need and God’s provision.
“Here Is Love.”
The melody is almost haunting, the words capturing the paradox of the cross.
Here is love, vast as the ocean Loving kindness as the flood When the Prince of Life, our Ransom Shed for us His precious blood Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise? He can never be forgotten Throughout Heaven’s eternal days On the mount of crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide Through the floodgates of God’s mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide Grace and love, like mighty rivers Poured incessant from above
And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love No love is higher, no love is wider No love is deeper, no love is truer
No lover is higher, no lover is wider No love is like Your love, O Lord
This is the paradox of the cross: Perfect peace and perfect justice became united in one death on a Friday afternoon over two thousand years ago. The thief who repented while hanging on the cross next to Jesus understood the paradox. No one else knew so well the physical agony of what Jesus was suffering in crucifixion. And the thief knew that he deserved his pain and suffering. He knew the fear of God. But he received the assurance of pardon from the blameless Man hanging beside him.
In this opening lesson, “The Cross Is a Radical Thing,” we exhort the believer to resist the downgrading of the cross to a mere symbol. If the cross has become to us a humdrum ornament to our faith, we have not understood it, and we have not felt its offense.
We need studies like this one in our day because we must understood the death of Christ in both its timeliness and timelessness.
The Apostle Paul captured this timelessness when he exhorted the Corinthian believers: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). All the tenses were captured there—the present, the past and the future. The moment Christ died was an actual point in time in the past. He presently offers to live within us and promised to return.
Combined with the tenses are our tensions. Many of our modern-day sensibilities are offended by the brutality of a Roman crucifixion, and some people have even become persuaded that the atonement is a remote and irrelevant doctrine.
Never has it been more obvious that this world needs redemption, and that redemption is costly. The cross more than ever, in our language and in our longings, is necessary to bridge the divide between God and us. Without the cross the chasm that separates us all from truth, love, justice and forgiveness can never be crossed. The depths of mystery and love found in the cross can never be fully plumbed, but it must be the lifelong pursuit of the Christian to marvel at its costliness and to celebrate its meaning.
Crucifixes Banned in Poland
The government of Polish Prime Minister Jaruzelski had ordered crucifixes removed from classroom walls, just as they had been banned in factories, hospitals, and other public institutions. Catholic bishops attacked the ban that had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms.
But one zealous Communist school administrator in Garwolin decided that the law was the law. So one evening he had seven large crucifixes removed from lecture halls where they had hung since the school’s founding in the twenties.
Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well.
The next day two-thirds of the school’s six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest.
Soldiers surrounded the church. But the pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. “There is no Poland without a cross.” Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict, pp. 202-203
- Jesus was crucified, not in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves. – George F. MacLeod
- The cross cannot be defeated, for it is defeat. – Gilbert K. Chesterton
- There will be no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
- We need men of the cross, with the message of the cross, bearing the marks of the cross. – Vance Havner
- Christ’s cross is such a burden as sails are to a ship or wings to a bird. – Samuel Rutherford
- He came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. – Anonymous
- The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. A.W. Tozer