Whence came the tree from which the cross was made? What has become of the particles of which it was composed? What hands were employed in preparing this instrument of a cruel death? To such questions no answer can be given–and none is needed. The cross was a common mode of punishment among several nations, and among the Romans was reserved for the punishment of slaves and the vilest malefactors. It was never made use of by the Jews. If they had had the power of execution in their hands when Christ suffered, the punishment for the offence alleged against him would have been stoning. But by the ordering of divine Providence, our Lord was put to death in that way which was accursed, according to the Jewish law; for it was written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
The death of Christ on the cross may well be reckoned mysterious, for it was at the same time a cursed and a blessed death. Christ was “made a curse for us,” that he might deliver us from the curse of the law. And yet Christ’s death on the cross is the most blessed event which ever occurred in the world; for on the cross the price of our redemption was paid. Christ “bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” He died, “the just for the unjust,” to bring us unto God. This led Paul to say, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The cross is a center in which many lines of truth meet. The cross is an incomprehensible mystery. That God should be manifest in the flesh, is the great “mystery of godliness.” That the Prince of life should be crucified, was an event which caused the angels to stoop from their celestial thrones, that they might gaze in amazement upon it. The prophets who predicted these events were perplexed at their own prophecies, “They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating, when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow.”
The truths which are exhibited in a clear and strong light by the crucifixion of Christ, are such as these:
1. The infinite evil of sin, which in order to its pardon required such a sacrifice.
2. The holiness and justice of God, which would not allow sin to pass without full evidence of the divine disapprobation, and his inflexible purpose to visit it with deserved punishment.
3. The wisdom of God, in contriving a method of salvation by which his own glory would be promoted in the eternal salvation of hell-deserving sinners. This wisdom is chiefly manifest in the incarnation of the Son of God, by which the divine and human natures are united in one person.
4. But the most wonderful exhibition of the cross is the mercy of God, the love of God to sinners—such love as never could have been conceived of, had it not been manifest by the gift of his own Son! “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”