The Repulsive Beauty of the Cross

Let’s face it, we naturally find the crucifixion of Jesus repulsive. After all, who but the most deranged masochist enjoys pain, abandonment, and despair? In the words of Jürgen Moltmann, the Cross is a “profane horror.” Perhaps this is why he says in the first sentence of his book, The Crucified God, “The cross is not and cannot be loved.”

There is, however, reason to love the Cross. It comes by considering the crucifixion from the vantage point of heaven, that is, by acquiring the Father’s perspective on his Son’s sacrifice—so beautiful, so magnificent—that despite its horror and brutality, we remain transfixed by its splendor. And still, questions continue to emerge:

How could such a dreadful instrument of torture as the Cross become the gate of heaven?

What kept you there, Jesus, with wracking anguish torn, as the sun withdrew its light, under pale skies and darkness all around?

Scourged and crowned with thorns entwined, forsaken by all—even God, how did you possibly pray such words of love, “Father forgive them”?

The following five-minute portion of a message, delivered at last year’s Good Friday service, sheds light on these questions by suggesting we’ll never grasp the heights of God’s love and forgiveness until we comprehend the depths of the Cross, for there we recognize our ultimate need is not to have someone suffer with us, but to have someone suffer for us—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

About the author

Chris Castaldo (PhD, London School of Theology) is the lead pastor at New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel and coauthor of The Unfinished Reformation.