The Beauty of the Cross

By: Keith Olbricht

I ran out of time before I could finish my lesson Wednesday night, so I want to put it into writing here and now.

The cross today is one of the most cherished emblems in the world—to those who believe.  But in the 1st Century, it was an object of scorn and shame.  As Jesus began introducing this idea to His disciples, it is no surprise that they were not immediately accepting.  Reading the three times that Jesus tells this to His disciples in Matthew (16:21-23; 17:22-23; and 20:17-19), you will notice some similarities and differences.

First, notice the places where Jesus told them.  In Matthew 16, Jesus and His disciples are in the regions of Caesarea Philippi, about 20 miles north of Galilee, and about as far from Jerusalem as Jesus ever went during His ministry (105 miles).  In Matthew 17, as He told them the second time they were in Galilee, which was only 65 or so miles from Jerusalem.  The third time He told them, in Matthew 20, they were on the road, headed to Jerusalem.

Second, notice the timing He gave them.  In Matthew 16, He said He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, and rise.  There was no time frame mentioned, only the events.  In Matthew 17, He said He was “about to be betrayed,” indicating a nearness to the time.  In Matthew 20, He said, “We are going to Jerusalem….”  The time was now imminent.

Third, notice their reactions.  In Matthew 16, Peter is arguing with Him against it.  Matthew 17 records that they were sorrowful.  Matthew 20 gives no reaction, but seems to indicate a growing acceptance of what He was saying.

Fourth, notice the information itself.  In all three He mentions being killed, but in all three He also mentions His resurrection.  Matthew 20’s account even specifies this resurrection would occur on the third day.  In all three there was sorrow, but in all three there was hope.

Finally, notice the transformation that took place over the course of time.  The cross went from being something unfathomable to something adored (Galatians 6:14; 2:20).  Furthermore, notice the words of the Hebrews writer in 2:9—“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”  Crowned with glory and honor on the cross!  It is difficult for us to fathom that something so despised could bring such joy, and yet through the grace of God, it does.

What is your reaction to the news of the cross?  The death of Jesus should be seen as something beautiful, but only if we appreciate the suffering, sorrow, and repugnance of sin.

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