The Horror of the Cross

I have a strange fondness for horror, whether it be in the form of a well written manga, or perhaps in some classic film starring the likes of Vincent Price or Peter Cushing. I cannot say for sure why this is so, but I suspect it has to do with my melancholic temperament (it does provide a nice counter-balance to all the romantic comedy manga and anime). I suppose I like best the stories that have some hero who although mostly innocent finds themselves in some nightmarish scenario, but despite all the heart-wrenching struggle and horrors, the hero eventually escapes.

Perhaps it is a little macabre but it provides a catharsis of sorts to one living in a fallen world, and on occasion demonstrates something admirable in the midst of suffering by the hero. I suspect it has helped me notice the dark colors of the painting that is this existence, which assists in appreciating the brighter colors more clearly. But let us now consider the supreme example of what I have been writing of, which is part of the Gospel itself.

Horror as part of the Gospel? Perhaps you think I have gone mad, but I fear we do not meditate fully on what occurred upon the cross. On a basic level we have men in a gross display of injustice, systematically murdering an innocent man. Surely this would be considered a horror? But it is far worse than that, for upon that cross we have man murdering his own Creator in blatant rebellion. Was there any more wicked act in the history of humanity than that? And I will only speak for myself on this matter, but I know that I am no better than the men who drove the nails into Christ’s precious hands and feet. This would be the most horrific tale ever conceived if it ended on that level, but we must go further into the dark depths to see the bright majesty of God’s love and mercy.

For what caused our Lord to sweat blood in the garden? Was it the great physical pain he was about to endure? Yes, it was truly barbaric how he was tortured and put to death, but here is one area which with I take issue with attempts by mortal men to depict the crucifixion; and it is the inability to show God’s full wrath towards sin being poured out upon himself in the person of Jesus Christ. I have lived on this Earth almost twenty-nine years and the knowledge that the very least of those almost countless sins deserves death eternal at the hands of a Holy God, fills me with terror; and even if it was the demand for the justice of God for my sins only, none from Dante to Poe to Lovecraft could imagine something nightmarish enough to describe what Jesus endured for my sake alone at the hands of a God angry towards sin!

That is why Christ sweated blood in such unimaginable anguish even before his our had come, the physical torment of the manner of death of no account in comparison to the torment poured out from Heaven. For who but God himself could understand his own wrath against sin! Is it any wonder that upon that cross, Jesus uttered the opening phrase of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46b) It is only in those blood curdling words, that we get a glimpse at the true nightmare our Lord endured upon that cross. And in that same Gospel we have recorded in the next verse, those pathetic words uttered by ignorant men like you and me, blissfully unaware of the gravity of so many things that must be spiritually discerned, simply responding by saying, “This man is calling Elijah.”

Oh Lord, hard hearted wretch that I am! On that cross you showed not only your perfect justice and mercy, but also your mercy towards sinners! Forgive me for taking the atonement that took place on the cross for granted, and that I do not hate my sin as I ought. How wonderfully you showed your indescribably beautiful grace by enduring the horror of the cross. For you are the only truly innocent hero, who willfully experienced the greatest nightmare, only to emerge as the conqueror who has rescued his beloved bride from death! Amen.

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