By Rev Dr Edward Goh
The cross was an instrument of execution, perfected by the Romans to inflict torture and humiliation. Prior to crucifixion, its victims would be scourged by whips with bones or glass attached, ripping off the flesh, leaving sinews and bones exposed. Some would die from such scourging. The criminals were then made to carry their cross beams to the poles which they would be tied or nailed to, to die a slow death. Their bodies would be left there for days, to be eaten by birds and dogs, further adding to their humiliation. They hung there as displays for onlookers passing by. This was to warn others against following their footsteps, to deter any rebellion against Rome.
Crucifixion was a punishment so cruel and demeaning, no noble or Roman citizen would be executed in this manner. Yet it was the means of death God had appointed for His Son. From an earthly perspective, Christ’s death on the cross was a shame to even his immediate family. None of his brothers was there to bury him. Neither were his closest disciples whom he had spent three years with. It was as Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Why must He die such a death? Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him.” For “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isa. 53:5).” The weakness of the cross has become the power of God for our salvation. However, 1 Cor. 2:8 tells us, “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Yet to those whom God has chosen to believe in Him, the cross becomes God’s ultimate revelation of His power, love, wisdom and righteousness.
And because Christ has humbled himself to such a death on the cross, God vindicated him by raising Him from the dead and exalted Him to the highest place, giving Him a name above every other name. The humiliation of the cross becomes the glory of Christ for us to proclaim now and throughout eternity. It has become our hope and salvation, empowering us to trust also in God’s full and final vindication at Christ’s return.