Author: Ron Graham
Beauty and Ugliness
—in the Cross of Christ
Beauty and ugliness are opposites which both appear prominently in the Bible. Especially in the cross of Christ we see disgusting ugliness contrasted with supreme beauty. Yes there is “wondrous beauty” in the cruel death of Christ.
We will start by looking at the ugliness, then we will turn to the beauty...
1 The Ugliness of the Cross
The latter chapters of the four gospel accounts tell the story of the cross —in Matthew from chapter 28, In Mark from chapter 14, In Luke from chapter 22, in John from chapter 13. The ugly things told in these chapters include the following...
- The Chief Priest’s conclave; their plotting, false testimony, hypocrisy, tearing of robes, spitting, mocking, and shocking injustice.
- Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, Peter’s denial, and the withdrawal by many disciples from supporting Jesus.
- The howling mob shouting, “Crucify him!”
- Pilate’s declaration that Jesus was innocent, but washing his hands of it, and handing Jesus over to be punished.
- The pain and the wounds of the whip, crown of thorns, nails, and spear.
- The blood of an innocent man flowing to the ground.
- The earthquake and the darkness over all the land
2 Beautiful Moments Around the Cross
There were, amid all the ugliness, some beautiful moments including the following...
- A woman’s annointing of Jesus at Bethany with costly fragrant oil.
- The service of Jesus, clothed with a towel, washing his disciples’ feet.
- Jesus on the cross saying, “Father forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing”.
- Jesus on the cross committing his mother to the care of a disciple, saying to them, “Woman, behold your son... behold your mother!”
- The faith of one of the thieves crucified with Jesus, and the promise Jesus made to him, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
- Joseph of Arimathea taking care of the body of Jesus and laying it in his own unused tomb.
- The angel saying to the women who came to the tomb, “He is not here for he is risen!”
3 The Even More “Wondrous Beauty”
The song, The Old Rugged Cross, says that in that old cross we see a “wondrous beauty”. In spite of the ugliness we have seen, and deeper than the beautiful moments we have seen, there are three most beautiful things manifest in the cross of Christ.
The Love of God
"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16).
Christ died for the ungodly and thus demonstrated God’s own love for humanity so that we could be reconciled to him and be saved from his wrath (Romans 5:6-11).
We can feel the wonder in Paul’s words, "He loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
The Goodness of Jesus
It is through "the righteousness of one man" Jesus Christ that we can be made righteous. Our justification relies on the perfect goodness of Jesus by which his sacrifice on the cross was effective (Romans 5:17-21).
Jesus was humbly obedient to God in dying on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). This is a most beautiful thing. Probably the most beautiful moment of all surrounding the cross was when Jesus prayed, "Not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
"He did no sin nor was any deceit found in his mouth" (1Peter 2:22, Isaiah 53:9). That perfection made his offering acceptable. That perfection is a most beautiful thing.
Hope of Forgiveness and Eternal Life
God’s purpose in the cruel cross was that "grace might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21).
Peter says that Christians have "a living hope... an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you"(1Peter 1:3-4).
Jesus tells us, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary, for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day. And after that, repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).
Can you think of anything more beautiful than this outcome of the cross? "As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things" (Romans 10:15).