The cross of Calvary’s crucified Lamb is where the bankrupt culture of a fallen race encounters the transformative power of sacrificial servanthood. In other words, Golgotha is not the singular site of Satan’s defeat. It is more than just the place were you and I find adoption and restoration – as deeply amazing as that is. It is at this intersection that whole nations and entire people groups can be made perfectly whole. The leaves of Calvary’s tree are for the healing of the nations.
William E. Sangster, a fiery Methodist preacher in the early part of the last century, told the story of taking a young boy from the rural English countryside into one of Britain’s grand Gothic cathedrals for the very first time.
Once the pair’s eyes grew accustomed to the dim lighting, the boy looked up above the altar and gasped, “There is a cross up there!” The old preacher paused, thought for a moment, and then pointed to the floor of the cathedral. “There’s a cross down here too,” he said. The boy looked down at the floor in confusion for a bit, looked around at the massive room studying each detail, then eventually a broad smile dawned across his face.
“The cathedral is a cross,” he said in wonder. It was true. With the long center aisle of the nave flanked by alcoves on either side of the altar, the footprint of the hulking structure formed the shape of a perfect cross.
Whenever he told this story in a sermon, Sangster would follow it by saying, “You can take me to the foot of Golgotha and say, ‘There is a cross up there.’ And you would be correct. But I will point you to the earth and say, ‘There is a cross down here.’ The cross is in all of life. It is in the earth. It is life’s foundation.”
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ occurred at a very special point in God’s timeline of history in a very specific spot on planet Earth. Most believers can tell you that the events of Good Friday occurred around AD 22 in the ancient city of Jerusalem. But what most Christians do not understand is that the cross and its implications transcend time and place. Please remember that when the apostle John was granted a glimpse into the heavenly realm there on the isle of Patmos, he witnessed Jesus being introduced to heaven’s adoring host as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
Herein is a mystery few understand. Within it lies the key to transforming a culture bent on self-destruction via self-absorption. We must understand that the principles displayed at the cross were woven into the very fabric of the universe from the beginning by the hand of the Creator. In other words, “There’s a cross down here.”
We’ve already heard Jesus articulate one of those principles when He said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone” (John 12:24, NKJV). He pointed the way again when He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Over and over Jesus proclaimed and modeled the principle of the cross to His disciples.
“If you want to lead, you must serve,” He told them. But they could not understand, so in His final hours the Crown Prince of heaven stripped to the waist and washed their filthy feet as if He were the lowest slave in the household. “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom,” He cried (Luke 6:38, NKJV). But that made no sense to them, so He said, “Hide and watch,” gave away His very life, and then inherited a seat at the right hand of God.
There is a cross down here. Love your neighbor. Do good to those who despise you. These principles make no sense in the context of postmodern, rationalistic, materialistic America. They are the antitheses of Darwinian self-preservation. They cut against everything the earthly princes of Wall Street and Hollywood Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue hold up as truth.
There is a cross down here. But the church has forgotten meekness and humility in an age of ostentatious pride and self-aggrandizement. We’ve lost sight of the truth shouted from the top of Calvary’s mountaintop by a battered, bleeding man with a sign reading “King” nailed above his head…that service and self-sacrifice, and most of all love, are our keys to influence and victory.
Yes, there is a cross up there. Thanks be to a loving God who did not withhold His precious Son but freely gave Him up for us. But there is a cross down here too. Jesus hung at the intersection of heaven and earth. And in a sense, so do we.