Seeing the beauty through the ugliness of the Cross
I had the opportunity to sit under the preaching of Tullian Tchividjian yesterday as he spoke about our need for the gospel every day. When he finished the worship leaders came up and we began to sing a far millibar song. The lyrics go like this. "To see You high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory. Pour out your power and love, as we sing Holy, Holy, Holy."
As we sang that song and I pondered the words of Tullian I could not help but think of the Cross. All of us were joyfully singing "To see You high and lifted up". I remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah in 52 where it speaks of Jesus high and lifted up yet His appearance was so marred, beyond human resemblance but He will sprinkle many nations and kings will shut their mouths. All at the Cross.
To me it almost seemed absurd that we as believers were joyfully singing those words "To see You high and lifted up". Should we be excited about Jesus being beaten and tortured and lifted up on the Cross? On that day many were shouting very similar words as Mark 15:13 says "They cried out again Crucify Him". They wanted to see Jesus high and lifted up on the Cross. The majority of the crowd saw Jesus as a fool and did not see Him as who He really was. Because He threatened their self righteousness they eagerly shouted those words and demanded that this Jesus be tortured, beaten, spit upon, mocked and laughed at. The Cross was an ugly death by itself. Combined with it the flogging and mockery and crown of thorns, the picture is horrific. Flesh exposed and torn, nails in wrists and feet and then to he "high and lifted up" on a cross to suffocate to death in agony. This was an ugly death for a guilty man, but Jesus was innocent.
They shouted out Crucify Him! In other words with clenched fists they screamed, we want to see you high and lifted up. Should this be the cry of the believer? Should we sing with joy about Jesus being pierced and lifted up? Absolutely we should. The cry and shout should not change but the motivation behind cry is completly different. To the believer the cry is not one with clenched fist but open uplifted hands. It is a cry that is filled with tears and conviction of one's own sin and one of longing for overwhelming grace and mercy that only comes from faith in the one that was lifted up that day. It is a cry of worship to the only one that was worthy to endure the ugliness of the Cross on our behalf and overcome the grave.
To the believer there is great beauty in the ugliness of the Cross. Because Jesus was high and lifted up that day, He is high and lifted up today and Shining in the light of His glory and our only response is to cry Holy, Holy, Holy.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18