As I watched our grade 1 students paint the window in their classroom, my heart was captured. The beauty of the cross shone forth, both in the painting and in the faces of the students. But beauty from a cross? How can that be? The cross was meant to be one of the most cruel forms of punishment, one reserved for the worst of criminals. A punishment of intense pain, an execution. How can we call it beautiful?
We can only call it beautiful if we also remember the reality of the horror and gravity of what happened on Calvary that led to what we celebrate at Easter – the betrayal, murder, and glorious resurrection, of the Son of God. Jesus, God’s one and only son, came to earth knowing that cross was in his future. Jesus came as just a baby, fully God and fully man, and lived a sinless life. God sent Jesus out of a love deeper than we can imagine, a love that would give of its most precious gift to rescue others. A love that would pay the ultimate price for a debt that we owed.
That is the beauty and good news of the cross. That is why we would dare hang a tool of execution around our necks. The sacrifice made on that cross could only be made by the perfect Lamb of God. Our sin against God was that deep that it cost God that much. Our depravity and need for a Savior was, and is, that deep. And God’s love for us was, and is, that deep. That deep that the cross was not the end of the story. Jesus died on that cross. He was buried in a guarded tomb. But that tomb could not hold him, death was not the winner. Jesus arose! He came fully back to life. He walked again. He talked again. He ate again! He lived again! That cross, a tool of death, ushered in the beginning of real life. Without facing the cost that was paid, we do not get to experience the life that was won. Without facing the gruesome, we miss the beauty.
This coming Friday Elementary and Middle School students will take a moment to remember. We will look at an empty rugged cross and contemplate the cost and love that it represents. But we won’t stop there. We will then see it flower and bloom as a reminder of the resurrection, a reminder of God’s love winning, a reminder that life in Christ is beautiful. The beauty of the cross.