Published March 27, 2018

Paul's Epistle
"The Cross + Love"

You've heard people describe someone's extreme pain as "excruciating." The word, in fact, is defined as "causing great pain or anguish" or "intensely painful." The origin of that word says something about the great physical agony Christ felt as He hung dying on the Cross.

Why? Because "excruciating" comes from the Latin word for cross, crux. Physicians who have studied death by hanging on a cross tell us it was, indeed, in every way, excruciating. In fact, it was a punishment – an execution – so totally barbaric that it was even banned in the fourth century by Roman Emperor Constantine.

So why did Christ willingly subject Himself to such an horrific death? Predicting His own death, Jesus told His disciples, "...for this purpose I came to this hour..." (John 12:27). So it wasn't something that came as a surprise to Him. It was, in fact, the very reason He came. It was God's way of redeeming fallen mankind — making possible a restoration of fellowship between a sinful race and a Holy God. It was not a spur-of-the-moment plan, either. Christ was the "Lamb slain from the from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8).

So Christ came – and allowed Himself to be subjected to such pain and, yes, death – because of His great love.

Love!  It's not something that's normally associated with death by crucifixion. Punishment, pain, agony, blood, death — yes. But love? Yet as songs have often said, it was His love that kept Him there on the cross. Love for whom? Love for us! Love for you, love for me.

Jesus Himself had said it: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). And John declared, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us" (1 John 3:16).

On last weekend's broadcast, you heard Joseph Habedank put it this way: "I don't think there was any greater demonstration of love than what Christ did on the Cross for us as sinners... He came here to die for our sins... And I'm so grateful that He loves us... There is no one in the world who can love you like Jesus can."

In fact, Joseph co-wrote a song called "I Love You (From An Old Rugged Cross)." Here are some of the lyrics, illustrating what Jesus was saying through His sacrifice:

     "I left my home, I came so far
     from where I was to where you are.
     The bitter tears, the lonely ache,
     the many ways a heart could break.
     And you were at the center of it all
     to free you from the prison of the fall.

     There was no hill too steep for Me to climb.
     No road too long and hard to make you Mine.
     I gave all I had to give — and it was worth the cost.
     To say I love you from an old rugged cross."*

The late Billy Graham once put it this way: "Sin is the second most powerful force in the universe, for it sent Jesus to the cross. Only one force is greater – the love of God." He also said, "From the Cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.'"

We can, with amazement and wonder, say with John, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God" (1 John 3:1).

And as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Those two things seem so totally unrelated. But our sin brought them together. God – as only He could – used the world's most barbaric instrument of death to bring to us eternal life.

And it was all because of His immeasurably great, boundless and abiding love.

- Paul Heil

* "I Love You (From An Old Rugged Cross)," by Joseph Habedank, Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey. Christian Taylor Music BMI, Songs From The Inside, Sea Smoke Music, Dayspring Music BMI.  As recorded by Joseph Habedank on his CD, "Resurrection."

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