Hymers Wilson Jr., MDiv, MSW, is a retired pastor and counselor residing in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

I saw a cross at my local mall, made from stainless steel with black Swarovski crystals glued to the cross pieces. It was valued at just under $100, but if this little cross could talk, it would remind us that its symbolism has infinite value. Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross, and this has changed its function forever. The cross has become a symbol of the power of an almighty God to forgive the human family and defy the forces of death.

Max Lucado writes: The cross.

“It rests on the time line of history like a compelling diamond. Its tragedy summons all sufferers. Its absurdity attracts all cynics. Its hope lures all searchers. . . .

“. . . History has idolized it and despised it, gold-plated it and burned it, worn and trashed it. History has done everything but ignore it.

“That’s the one option that the cross does not offer.

“No one can ignore it! You can’t ignore a piece of lumber that suspends the greatest claim in history. . . .

“. . . Its bottom line is sobering: if the account is true, it is history’s hinge. Period. If not, it is history’s hoax.

“That’s why the cross is what matters.”1

If the Cross is a hoax, then it is the greatest “fake news” of all time. If, on the other hand, the story of the Cross is true, it is the one event that ensures the survival of the human family. If the Cross could speak, it would share lessons that are both healing and revealing.

1. The Cross exposes the depth of our depravity

I was 16 years old and visiting Zurich, Switzerland, when, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Armstrong stepped off the lunar module with half a billion people watching, including myself. As I looked at the first color TV I had ever seen, Armstrong uttered those now famous words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The achievement indeed symbolized the astounding progress of humankind. We now had what it takes—the technology, the brain power, and the ingenuity, to get to the moon. We passionately believed that humanity was improving, that better knowledge and better education would create a better world. But the Cross tells a different story.

It forces us to recognize that human beings are capable of killing an innocent Person who healed the sick and brought the dead back to life, snuffing out the life of a Person who preached kindness and acceptance, attempting to destroy the Son of God Himself. It lays bare the reality that we human beings are capable of sinking so low as to destroy persons just because we disagree with them. “The depravity of the human heart, the guilt of transgression, the ruin of sin, are all made plain by the cross where Christ has made for us a way of escape.”2

2. The Cross reveals the certainty of our salvation

Human beings need saving from themselves. A documentary featuring natural historian David Attenborough highlights the greed of human beings. “Mapping how steeply the planet’s biodiversity has degenerated before him,” Attenborough muses that, if unchecked, this could lead to the total destruction of the earth’s forests, oceans, atmosphere, and finally human beings themselves.3

While passing through the pain of pandemic and the anguish of global pollution, the Cross teaches us that this world is our home and the Cross is our standard for righteousness.

Nations are suspicious of the motives of other nations. Those who make attempts at international cooperation constantly struggle to overcome the hurdles of broken promises, shifting alliances, and old feuds. Rivalries tear apart nations. Polarization within nations steadily increases. Opposing sides no longer want to talk to each other, preferring to speak only to those with whom they agree. We not only are capable of self-destruction but also commit terrible crimes and start wars that cause the deaths of innocent men, women, and children. We casually use the term collateral damage as if we are talking about a broken pot or a few twisted pipes.

The Cross announces that we need saving from our terrible selves and require more than human help; it then reveals the certainty of that taking place. “And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men” (Rom. 5:6, Phillips).

3. The Cross reflects the love of God

The Cross declares that the wretched condition of human beings is surpassed only by the greatness of God’s love. The Cross demonstrates that no matter how bad you and I have been, or how terrible we are right now, Jesus died on the cross for us. E. J. Waggoner states, “He bought you for the very reason that you were not worthy. . . . He bought you, not for what you were then or are now worth, but for what He could make of you.”4

The heavens declare God’s righteousness and glory (Pss. 97:6; 19:1), pine trees and cedars of Lebanon speak of judgment on the oppressor (Isa. 14:8), and the wilderness shouts for joy (Isa. 35:1). The Cross also speaks. It offers itself as incontrovertible evidence. “The proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, Phillips).

In the greatest transaction ever, humanity’s rebellion against God was cancelled. F. W. Faber described God’s love in poetic form:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

like the wideness of the sea.

There’s a kindness in His justice,

which is more than liberty. . . .

For the love of God is broader,

than the measure of man’s mind,

and the heart of the Eternal,

is most wonderfully kind.5

4. The Cross vindicates the
character of God

Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 inform us that the heart of the cosmic struggle between good and evil was a vindication of the character of God. Knechtle and Sohlmann comment, “Satan misrepresented the character of God. . . . “. . . There developed a crisis in the universe—a lack of confidence in God. . . . “. . . He had to find a way to demonstrate to them the real character of the rebel and of his purposes. Only thus could He restore complete confidence in His goodness and love.”6 God’s incontrovertible evidence to the universe is to see His people with a passion “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

Some say, “True justice won’t come until Jesus comes. So, why bother to stand against oppression now?” We ‘bother’ because, as Timothy Keller says, “This kind of life reflects the character of God.”7 The character of God is not bestowed on us when Jesus comes, it is to be demonstrated now. When we fail to reflect the character of God, we effectively hinder the coming of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:12, 14)

5. The Cross validates the
justice of God

The death of Jesus on the cross showed that it is possible for religious leaders to put the wants of the institution above the needs of the people.

As youngsters growing up in the church, we were often taught that we should avoid protests in the community and ‘focus on evangelism’ and trust that injustice will be ended at the second coming of Christ. We often found ourselves wrestling with the concept of justice and the church.

Keller states, “There are valid reasons why many become concerned when they hear Christians talk about ‘doing justice.’ Often that term is just a slogan being used to recruit listeners to jump on some political bandwagon. Nevertheless, if you are trying to live a life in accordance with the Bible, the concept and call to justice are inescapable. . . . It consists of a broad range of activities, from simple fair and honest dealings with people in daily life, to regular, radically generous giving of your time and resources, to activism that seeks to end particular forms of injustice, violence, and oppression.”8

6. The Cross embodies the righteousness of God

I remember a chorus we used to sing in church: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.”9 I heard that our focus was to be the three angels’ messages. I read that the heart of these messages was righteousness by faith because the Cross demonstrated God’s righteousness, “that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26, NKJV). Then I learned that righteousness, justification, and justice were all members of the same family and were far from being otherworldly (see Amos 5:24).

Christine Erickson states, “We do not have to look far to see that Jesus is our standard of righteousness. Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless life, died a sacrificial death and rose again to make right that which was wrong. It is because of Jesus and His work on the Cross that we can be justified and made right with God. And Jesus also demonstrates a beautiful example for us to follow in the New Testament as one who cared for the outcast and reached out with compassion to help those most often overlooked. Jesus pursued justice. He physically and spiritually rescued those in need.”10

While passing through the pain of pandemic and the anguish of global pollution, the Cross teaches us that this world is our home and the Cross is our standard for righteousness.

7. The Cross affirms the grace of God

Jesus’ death on the cross provided the ultimate free “Get Out of Jail Free” card for anyone who accepts and follows His example. When we see what Jesus suffered, we realize that grace was not cheap. And when He challenges us to take up our cross and follow Him, the sacrifice involved in doing so will not be cheap.

We need to feed our hungry and care for our earth. We need to take the time to understand why people have sympathy for the immigrant and refugee and rise to declare that lives matter. We need to show love and compassion even to those with whom we do not agree. We need to work together for a better society—just as Jesus did. Our actions will not be based on a notion of human betterment but on the prayer for divine grace, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, KJV).

  1. Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior: Discover Hope in the Unlikeliest Place (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 34.
  2. Ellen G. White, Faith and Works (Nashville, TN: Southern Pub. Assn., 1979), 96.
  3. Natalia Winkleman, “ ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet’ Review: Ruin and Regrowth,” New York Times, October 4, 2020.
  4. E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness (San Francisco, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1892), 72.
  5. Frederick William Faber, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” 1862, public domain.
  6. Emilio B. Knechtle and Charles J. Sohlmann, Christ’s Message to the Last Generation (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1971), 16, 18.
  7. Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2012), 18.
  8. Keller, 18.
  9. "This World Is Not My Home," 1924, public domain.
  10. Christine Erickson, “Biblical Justice and Social Justice,” Shared Hope International, June 4, 2018.

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