[Column] Come Before the Cross of Christ

It is an actual event that took place in China Town in San Francisco. There was a family of two brothers and a sister. While the eldest brother worked hard to support his siblings making furniture and wooden Crucifixes, the youngest brother was addicted to gambling. One day, he tricked his brother into giving money saying that his life is on the line if he fails to pay back the money he owes to a loan shark. With the money, he went gambling at a casino and won some money. However, on his way home he was involved in a fight with the gangsters that followed him and killed one of them. Covered in blood and overwhelmed with fear, he hurriedly entered home and confessed to his brother everything that happened. As the police surrounded his residence and urged on the megaphone to turn himself in, the eldest brother handed him a wooden crucifix and immediately went out in his blood-covered jacket. In spite of the police warning, he continued to proceed towards them and the police shot him to death. Later, all the details emerged and the police learned that they had executed the actual killer’s brother. Nonetheless, the youngest brother was granted amnesty from prosecution. Following this tragic event, the life of the youngest brother changed completely. Not only did he stop gambling altogether, he also took up his brother’s craft and gradually began personal sanctification. This is indeed a true story. Did you know that there is another true and historical story? That is none other than that Jesus Christ the Son of God died for us, condemned sinners, on the Cross over two thousand years ago.

The intensity of suffering Jesus was inflicted with on the Cross exceeds our human imagination. Even before the Crucifixion, Jesus underwent excruciating emotional pain (Matthew 26:38). In addition, He was whipped prior to carrying the Cross. A Roman citizen and also gladiator witnessed and described this event as follows: “I’m a gladiator with Roman citizenship. When I visited Jerusalem to meet a centurion friend, I witnessed a bizarre event. As my friend and I entered Praetorium, the palace of Pontius Pilate, I saw a man named Jesus who was condemned to death being whipped. As a gladiator, I noticed right away that the whip in use was specially made. It had straps with broken pieces of metal, bone, and glass attached to the end. When it struck him, it tore off his skin, muscles, and nerves exposing his very bones in some areas. He was bleeding profusely in the shoulders and the back…. All I saw that day was blood. Even as a gladiator who has killed numerously, I found this to be inhumanely violent.” After many stripes, Jesus was suspended on the Cross by nails in His hands and feet. His blood oxygen level began to drop and He experienced excruciating pain in the head, not to mention He was naked and shamed on the Cross (John 19:23-24).

Because of the intensity of pain and shame associated with crucifixion, the Roman Empire used crucifixion only on non-citizens, slaves, and murderers. Regardless of the degree of brutality of the crime committed, Roman citizens were exempted from death by crucifixion. Cicero best illustrates Roman hostility against crucifixion. He said, “Let the very mention of the cross be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.” Even the Jews considered being hung on a tree as God’s curse (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Indeed, Our Lord suffered the spiritual agony of having been abandoned by the Father. He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (Matthew 27:46). This is one of seven sayings, the fourth saying to be more precise, Jesus Christ uttered in Aramaic while on the Cross. It literally means, “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” Our Lord took upon Himself not only sin and punishment of humanity but also the abandonment from God and spiritual curses we rightfully deserve. He was crucified at 9 A.M. and died at 3 P.M. He had lost all his strength after receiving too many stripes and losing too much blood.

Why did Jesus who was without sin suffer such a painful and ignominious death on the Cross? The answer is found in the Old Testament, which had long prophesied Christ’s suffering and its meaning: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”(Isaiah 53:5). Jesus Christ became a sin offering in our place for our forgiveness, peace, and healing. In other words, He suffered for us to grant us the complete salvation. Our Lord conquered not only the sin of the past and the present but also the sin of the future: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”(Isaiah 53:6). I am sure many of you have watched a movie scene in which a man flees to the mountain with his bleeding legs. The hunting dogs released by his enemy close in on him. Exhausted and running out of breath, he slows down and finds the river. As he submerges himself in the river, the hunting dogs break off pursuit because they cannot smell the blood. Satan, our enemy, pursues and attacks us using sin. Just like the hunting dogs, he aggressively chases after us and closes in on us. However, we can put an end to this pursuit by submerging ourselves in the river of the most precious and redemptive blood of Christ. This leads to healing and forgiveness. The river of the most precious blood of Jesus is the river of grace.

Some years ago, an archaeologist discovered an ark of covenant with an actual blood stain of Christ. The blood sample was sent to a laboratory in Israel for analysis and it revealed that instead of 46 chromosomes there were only 24: 22 autosomal chromosomes, one X chromosome, and one Y chromosome. In other words, the normal contribution of paternal chromosomes was missing. This attests to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The analysis also revealed that the blood was that of a living person, not a dead man. How true this is. The blood of Christ retains life even to this day. English hymnist Isaac Watts wrote a well-known hymn. Its refrain goes, “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!” Regardless of the type of sin, relationship, or disease you may have, you will be made whole if you come before the Cross of Christ. Let us always be grateful for the grace of the Cross and boast only in the precious Cross (Galatians 6:14). Let all of us come before the Cross of our Lord.

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