The cross of Christ is referred to frequently. Yet it is possible to do this without any deep meditation on what it teaches us. It can also be widely and very seriously misunderstood. Some have claimed that Christ died on the cross only to give us an example of how to live and suffer or to show us the love of God. They fail to reckon with the real infinite guilt of sin as it is emphasised in Scripture. There is a true sense in which the cross of Christ teaches. It teaches the realities of sin, wrath, justice and grace that false theories ignore.
George Hutcheson draws five main teachings from the cross. He is commenting on John 19:17-18: “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” Golgotha “the place of a skull” was the location appointed for Christ to suffer. “He was brought to this place to suffer…to show how loathsome we and our sins are before God, in that our Surety must suffer in so loathsome a place”. “By this” He has also shown “how by His death He will be death’s death, in that He suffered and triumphed over death in ‘the place of a skull’, where there were many monuments of death’s triumph over others” (i.e. many criminals had suffered and been buried there).
The following observations focus on many of the outward aspects of Christ’s suffering. This is, of course, only part of what took place at the cross. As someone has well said: “the soul of His sufferings was the sufferings of His soul”. Yet there is much to learn spiritually from the fact of crucifixion. Christ, by His suffering this death of being crucified, has taught us:
1. What the Curse of the Cross Teaches
We by nature are under the curse. He has undergone that curse so that all who flee to Him may be freed from it. He underwent this cursed death that all their conditions may be blessed and their very crosses turned into blessings (Galatians 3:13).
2. What the Blood of the Cross Teaches
His blood flowed abundantly from His hands and feet (as well as other places, both before being crucified and after His death). By pouring out His blood, even unto death, He has pointed out to us that – as there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22) – He has opened up that fountain for all who come to Him.
3. What the Wounds of the Cross Teach
We are taught much by Christ shedding His blood in this way. His hands and feet (sensitive parts) were pierced and being hanged up, nailed to the cross, to continue in pain for a long time. His wounds were continually widened by the weight of His body till He died. We are taught by all this the bitter fruit of sin and how great was His love to submit to endure this sharp and long-continuing pain. We are also instructed by this how we are bound to look on Him whom we have pierced, till our hearts be pierced and bleed again.
4. What Being Fastened to the Cross Teaches
Christ was fastened and continuing there upon the cross for a space before He died. This may teach us how resolute He was to endure that assault until justice was satisfied. He kept and stood in the field there, to endure the uttermost that enemies could do against the work of redemption and grapple with all of them till they had no more to say against His people. He also gave proof of the certainty of finding Him at His cross with stretched-out arms, ready to receive all them who seek for life in Him and through His death.
5. What Being Lifted Up On the Cross Teaches
His being lifted up thus nailed to the cross, may teach, partly, that we deserved no room, neither in heaven nor earth, and therefore our Surety was lifted up between both. The sun was also darkened (besides other reasons) to show that we do not deserve so much as that the sun should shine upon us. His being lifted up also shows that His suffering was indeed His exaltation. He was lifted up in it by triumphing over His enemies there and He is exalted in the world as crucified.
The image used above is of one of the proposed locations for Golgotha.