The Shame and Power of the Cross

By Pastor Brady Wolcott

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

It is important for us to understand not only that Jesus died for us but HOW he died for us. Dying for others can be a glorious thing. The movie Glory depicts the African American soldiers risking everything to fight for their country and gloriously charge up a hill to their deaths for freedom’s sake. Gladiators died for the glory of the empire and it’s Caesar. A police officer may die in the line of duty protecting a neighborhood or community. These are all forms of sacrificial death. They all bring honor to the fallen. But these are not like the death of Christ.

Christ died in great shame and weakness. He died without any human glory. He died outside the city- away from his people. An outcast. Despised. Rejected. Fleming Rutledge in her book The Crucifixion, says, “Crucifixion as a means of execution in the Roman Empire had as its express purpose the elimination of victims from consideration as members of the human race.” She goes on to call it “ritualized extermination.” Crucifixion was entertainment. Mocking was not just allowed but required.

Jesus allowed himself to become less than human in order to save humanity. The cross is the most shameful, dishonoring, unhuman way to die. And beyond this it is completely irreligious. When Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he is revealing to us the futility of all our religious trappings and efforts and the cursed state of all humanity. Jesus died under the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:10-14).

He is not dying a hero’s death. He is not dying for heroes. He is dying for the scum of the earth- you and I. He is dying as the scum of the earth. He is cursed. Shamed. Scorned. Humiliated. But worst of all he became sin (2 Cor. 5:21). The sinless one sin thus succumbed to death. Why?

Sin uses the Law to bring death (Rom. 7:5-25). That is what happened to Jesus on the cross. That is why he was accursed. Sin uses the Law to condemn, constrain, control, and crucify us. That is what happened to Jesus both physically and spiritually.

Only by faith can we see that Jesus’ death of shame and weakness is actually great honor and power. Only by faith can we see that Jesus’ sin is our righteousness. His curse is our blessing. His cry of dereliction (My God, My God…) was our battle cry of victory.