The Glory of the Crucifixion
It’s just after midnight. The neighbors down the hill are lighting off fireworks. It’s 17 minutes into the new year. The successes and failures of 2022 are behind us. The potential humiliations and glories of 2023 are steadily approaching over the horizon.
My heart was lifted by something I read earlier, something regarding the ways in which both God the Father and God the Son were glorified in the crucifixion of Christ. It’s by one of my favorite writers, J. C. Ryle. It’s a passage that has caused me to contemplate how the cross of Christ outshines all else in life. Which of my greatest achievements could I ever boast about as having any eternal value, any efficacious power in regard to real matters of the soul? I would be as an anemic weakling with plastic medallions and faded ribbons bragging in my pipsqueak voice before the all powerful champion with his trophies that will never tarnish and his crown which will never fade.
But enough of my embarrassing attempts at waxing eloquent. Let me share Ryle’s thoughts here. The passage is a good meditation to start a new year.
J. C. Ryle on John 13:31, 32
These verses show us what glory the crucifixion brought both to God the Father and to God the Son. It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that this was what our Lord had in His mind when He said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” It is as though He said, “The time of My crucifixion is at hand. My work on earth is finished. An event is about to take place tomorrow, which, however painful to you who love Me, is in reality most glorifying both to Me and My Father.
This was a dark and mysterious saying, and we may well believe that the eleven did not understand it. And no wonder! In all the agony of death on the cross, in all the ignominy and humiliation which they saw afar off, or heard of the next day, in hanging naked for six hours between two thieves, – in all this there was no appearance of glory! On the contrary, it was an event calculated to fill the minds of the apostles with shame, disappointment, and dismay. And yet our Lord’s saying was true.
The crucifixion brought glory to the Father. It glorified His wisdom, faithfulness, holiness, and love. It showed Him wise, in providing a plan whereby He could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. It showed Him faithful in keeping His promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. It showed Him holy, in requiring His law’s demand to be satisfied by our great Substitute. It showed Him loving, in providing such a Mediator, such a Redeemer, and such a Friend for sinful man as his co-eternal Son.
The crucifixion brought glory to the Son. It glorified His compassion, His patience, and His power. It showed Him most compassionate, in dying for us, suffering in our stead, allowing Himself to be counted sin and a curse for us, and buying our redemption with the price of His own blood. It showed Him most patient, in not dying the common death of most men, but in willingly submitting to such pains and unknown agonies as no mind can conceive, when with a word He could have summoned His Father’s angels and been set free. It showed Him most powerful, in bearing the weight of all the transgressions of the world, and vanquishing Satan, and despoiling him of his prey.
For ever let us cling to these thoughts about the crucifixion. Let us remember that painting and sculpture can never tell a tenth part of what took place on the cross. Crucifixes and pictures at best can only show us a human being agonizing in a painful death. But of the length, breadth, and depth, and height of the work transacted on the cross, – of God’s law honored, man’s sin borne, sin punished in a Substitute, free salvation bought for man, – of all this they can tell nothing. Yet all this lies hid under the crucifixion. No wonder St. Paul cries, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)
(from Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 3)
Happy New Year
May the Father bless us with an ever increasing knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ, in this new year. May we glory in the cross of Christ above all else and boast of His achievements. May we know Him intimately, be transformed into His image day by day, and trust Him with all our cares because He cares for us.