There were many crosses during Jesus’ time on the earth as it was the Romans’ preferred method of executing criminals. Many people died on crosses through the ages, and even into our times. Crucifixion is a brutal and slow death, a spectacle that is open to the public to allow for maximum humiliation, but also to serve as a warning to law breakers.
The cross on which the Son of God would die was seen and written about long before Jesus’ brief life on earth. Jesus, speaking prophetically through King David, described His death in Psalm 22:
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:15-18
Isaiah also saw His death, with His suffering and what He accomplished for us on the cross, and dedicated an entire chapter to it:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Isaiah 53:7-9
Through these, and other Scriptures, Jesus knew what was waiting on Him; He knew His mission and the Scriptures that spoke about Him. Yet He went willingly, and there is only one way to make sense of it: love compelled Him.
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me—to do Your will, O God.’ ” Hebrews 10:5-7
His willingness to die that horrible, shameful death, like a criminal on a cross, stands forever as a monument to God’s measureless grace and mercy, shown to undeserving sinners. This indescribable personal sacrifice opened the door for sinners to be reconciled with God. When Jesus’ blood flowed down that cross, the legal demands for our justification was finally and completely fulfilled, and the obstacle of our sin rolled out of the way.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight… Colossians 1:19-22
The free gift of reconciliation with God is rich with promises that raise the quality of our lives in the midst of troublesome times. God will never leave or forsake us, He is with us in our darkest day, and His peace gives us rest while the world is rushing toward its own destruction. There is no fear for those who walk with Him; even death holds no threat, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
The invitation to receive the gift of salvation comes with another invitation: to take up our own cross. Carrying a cross means only one thing: you are a dead person walking. See, you cannot live your old carnal life simultaneously with the new life that Christ offers. It is either the new or the old. Needless to say, dying to oneself is much harder than most people realize; the pain and sense of loss is real and the sacrifice is daily — over and over again until we breathe our last.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1
Denying the selfish demands of the flesh may seem to many as a special concession to the Lord, but Paul calls it our reasonable service. There simply is no true Christian life without a cross on your back.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23
We live in the age of a crossless gospel, which is no gospel at all. The cross in your life is the identifier of true Christianity, prompting you to live by Paul’s confession:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20
This is the kind of gospel that the world — where almost everything is fake — is yearning for. Even unbelievers know that a gospel without sacrifice is a cheap counterfeit. If you want to respond to God’s gift of salvation, you must also be willing to take up your cross and follow Him to your own Golgotha to lay down your sin nature. Notice also that Jesus died outside the city, emphasizing the harsh reality that there was no room for Him in the community. It was, after all, a crowd that called for His death. We are likewise invited to be separate, to live lives that are not appreciated in the circles that we move in because we aim to please God.
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Hebrews 13:12-14
We bear His reproach when we are mocked, scorned, persecuted and ostracized for His name’s sake — a vital aspect of the Christian life. Holiness means to be separate, an offense to those who live to enjoy their carnal pleasures because it convicts them of their own sin. Something is missing in your walk with the Lord when sinners don’t notice your commitment to Christ.
With the fatal blow to the carnal life comes the promise of a new life:
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him… Romans 6:5-8
There is no reason to mourn the death of our sinful lives as if everything good died with it. The other side of the coin shows the glorious life we stepped into.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17,18
You are invited!