It was just an ordinary piece of wood. There was really nothing special about it. It could have been the weight-bearing beam in a house or a barn. It could have been fashioned into a piece of furniture to provide a comfortable place to sit. But because it was chosen to be used as a cross, that piece of wood stands at the crossroads of human history.
It has long since disappeared – perhaps reused, perhaps destroyed – but it will forever be associated with the most significant event in human history. Never had there been an event like it, nor will there ever be. On this piece of wood – the cross of Calvary – God in the flesh died so that we might live. It is here that all of humanity must look for forgiveness. It is here that all must look for hope.
It is fitting that the arms of its crosspiece point in opposite directions for so many paradoxes are associated with the cross on which Jesus died. It was here that the sinless Son of God died like a common criminal. A day that was shrouded in darkness at midday brought the glorious light of God’s grace. His overwhelming suffering enables a peace of mind and heart that passes all understanding. His alienation from the Father, no matter how brief, provides reconciliation with the Father for all of eternity.
It may have been just an ordinary piece of wood, but there is nothing ordinary about what happened on it. The work of God that was finished on this cross began before the foundation of the world. The wrath of God was appeased as his only begotten Son gave himself on this cross. The way to God was made open by the new and living way consecrated by the death of Jesus on this cross.
When you and I think about that cross, it is not the wood, but rather the significance of what happened on it. It drives us to a different life. It emboldens us to live for a higher purpose. It fortifies us to live in a world that neither understands nor appreciates the extraordinary event that happened that day on that ordinary piece of wood.