A true story was reported about a couple visiting a jewelry store. As the jeweler showed them various cross necklaces, the woman commented, “I like these, but do you have any without this little man on them?”
That’s what so many people want today: a cross without Jesus. They want a cross without any offense . . . one that will look cool with their outfits. But if we could travel back in time and see the cross in its original context, we would realize that it was a bloody and vile symbol. It would have been the worst picture imaginable to see someone hanging on a cross.
The Romans chose crucifixion because it was meant to be a slow, torturous way to die. It was designed not only to kill someone, but to utterly humiliate them as they died. Crucifixions outside Roman cities served as warnings to anyone who would dare oppose the rule of Rome.
If there were any other way, do you think that God would have allowed His Son to suffer like this? If there had been any other way we could have been forgiven, then God surely would have found it. If living a good moral life would get us to heaven, then Jesus never would have died for us. But He did, because there was and is no other way. He had to pay the price for our sin. At the cross, Jesus purchased the salvation of the world.
Listen to the apostle Paul’s description of the divine transaction that took place in those terrible moments when Jesus suffered for our sins: “God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians 2:13–15 NLT).
If you were ever tempted to doubt God’s love for you, even for a moment, then take a long, hard look at the cross. Nails did not hold Jesus to that cross. His love did.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV).
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!