- What we believe
- Spiritual Help
- How we serve
- Christian Aid & Relief
- Adult Discipleship
- Campus Ministry
- Christian Giving
- Congregational Counseling
- Lutheran Schools
- Military Services
- Ministerial Education
- Multi-Language Publications
- Special Ministries
- Women's Ministry
- Youth and Family Ministries
- Northwestern Publishing House
- WELS Administration
- News & Events
- Streams media
- About WELS
That terrible cross
As terrible as the cross is, it is a wonderful cross for Christians. There we see God's answer to our sin.
In a typical Christian bookstore in the United States, you will see scenes of glorious nature everywhere. The pictures for our walls and the greeting cards we send out all communicate a soothing message of tranquility and beauty. You would never know that the central scene of the Christian narrative is a scene of unspeakable ugliness—that the real message of Christianity is found in that terrible cross.
Think of the Christian art around your house. You might have pictures of Jesus, perhaps gathering the little children around him, or Bible verses on plaques, or decorative picture frames with Christian symbols. But do you have a cross, one with Christ hanging from it? Does it show the agony and the horror of death by crucifixion? Do you see the scene of Christ's unbearable suffering, not just from his crucifixion but also from the damnation he must carry as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world?
That terrible cross is the very heart of our Christian faith. The cross was used to execute the most defiant criminals and the most dangerous enemies of the state. It was a deliberate, public, state-sponsored torture to so demean the crucified that everyone would turn away from them in disgust. Christ on the cross was, as Isaiah tells us, "one from whom men hide their faces" (Isaiah 53:3).
Terrible to see, Christ on the cross gives us something even more terrible to think about; namely, we should be on that cross, not Jesus. What does that say about us? Do we deserve to be there? Are we so bad that something so terrible should come upon us? Is God that angry with us for what we have done?
We are good at seeing terrible things that go on in this world. We see wars and atrocities. We hear daily about evil things others do. We would like to say that it is always someone else who is doing terrible things, someone else who is hurting other people, someone else who is failing to be the father and mother and husband and wife and friend and neighbor that they should be. We would like to say that someone else should be punished, but not us.
But the terrible cross says, "Yes, it is you too." Christ hangs there for the sins of all the people of the world—including you. Ephesians says it bluntly: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. . . . Like the rest, we were by nature objects of [God's] wrath" (2:1,3). The terrible cross shows us what would have been our destiny under God's wrath if Jesus had not come and taken our place. " 'Tis I who should be smitten, My doom should here be written: Bound hand and foot in hell . . . ' Tis I who have deserved them well" (Christian Worship 113:3).
Author: Frederick J. Toppe
Volume 92, Number 3
Issue: March 2005
Volume 92, Number 3
Issue: March 2005
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2009
Permission is granted for a single personal copy of an article. Additional copyright information is available at Northwestern Publishing House.
Subscribe to FIC
This monthly magazine, sent to almost 50,000 subscribers, addresses important issues facing Christians today.
Forward in Christ is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014. Help us celebrate. Share some of your favorite memories/thoughts about Forward in Christ. We'll put them together to share with our readers.
Forward in Christ goes digital
Forward in Christ magazine is now available in a digital format for your computer, smart phone, or tablet.
Download a FREE sample and subscribe today!
100 years of Forward in Christ
Did you know the official magazine of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is turning 100 years old? Learn more about the magazine’s history and plans for the future—what’s changed and what’s stayed the same.