Day 38: The Triumph of the Cross

Colossians 2:13-15
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

John 19:19
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews.

Hebrews 2:14-15
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

There is one aspect to the crucifixion of Jesus that does not get a lot of attention, but we ought not to miss it. Pilate had a notice nailed to the cross which proclaimed Jesus as king of the Jews. The chief priests wanted it taken down, but Pilate refused. This notice wasn’t Pilate’s way of mocking the chief priests, or his acknowledgment of what Jesus had said; it was to indicate the specific crime of the person hanging there on the cross.

Paul takes up this image when he says that God also nailed something to the cross. God nailed the charge of our legal indebtedness, the guilt of our sins, the record of our lawbreaking, to the cross. As we saw last week, it is finished; it is canceled; it is paid in full. “This is the triumph of the cross. God canceled the entire debt of our sin by nailing it to the cross. He forgave all our sins when Jesus died on the cross.” (Philip Graham Ryken) O marvelous Savior! O loving Father!

The second image that Paul uses is that of a victorious Roman conqueror parading his captives through the streets for all to see and rejoice in his victory. By his death on the cross Jesus decisively defeated the devil and all his hosts. “It was that triumph alone that released believers from the bondage of fear and inspired the confidence and composure of faith.” (John Murray) “The cross was God’s victory parade.” (Ryken) Hallelujah! We are free! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
—my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (Horatio G. Spafford)

O love of God! O sin of man!
In this dread act your strength is tried;
And victory remains with love:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified! (Frederick W. Faber)