“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (John 12:32).
There was confusion and questions in Jesus’s statement. How could He be the Messiah and be talking about dying on a cross? The cross had ugly baggage (Galatians 3:13). It was not a dignified, noble death but, instead, embarrassing and denigrating and was reserved for the worst of offenders. Yet, when Jesus died this death, the cross took on an entirely new meaning.
There is an inherent irony in the futile attempts of unbelievers to mock the cross because they disbelieve its ability to change a life. One often hears the comparison between the cross and the electric chair, hangman’s noose or guillotine, as though hanging one of these in the form of jewelry about one’s neck is equivalent to wearing a cross. Those who derisively make this analogy do not realize the strength of the argument made for the cross in these negative comparisons. It is not about the jewelry, it is about the cross.
You see, if the promised Messiah were to have died by the hangman’s noose or any other predicted, prophesied means of demise, God’s Son would have transformed the image of that method of death into something completely opposite its historic character. Therefore, a most horrendous form of death (and the cross certainly represented this) was transformed in the minds of humanity into its polar opposite. To this day, the cross inspires everlasting hope and some of the most beautiful songs ever penned by human hand.
However, there is a more important impact in the cross. Jesus’s death on that old rugged cross has a similar impact on all those drawn to it. Peoples, soiled by this dirty old world, ugly and damaged by sin and its consequences, find their release from the burdens of their history and are transformed into something more lovely than even they can imagine (2 Corinthians 5:7) by the cross. The filth that once stained them has been washed “as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18b) in the death of Christ. Those who believe in the cross and obey the Christ are able to die to sin and rise up to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Like the cross, those drawn to it become the polar opposite of what they were (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Peter 4:4).
Oh, the wondrous cross of Christ and what the death of Christ can do for you. “Lift the precious Savior up. Still He speaks from eternity” (Johnson Oatman, Jr.).