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The Theatre of the Cross

Theatre At the heart of Christ’s work on the cross is the display of His glory.

John Calvin once said: “For in the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures on high and below, but never more brightly than in the cross….If it be objected that nothing could be less glorious than Christ’s death….I reply that in that death we see a boundless glory which is concealed from the ungodly.”

The Bible tells us that God is the supremely happy God. His joy is limitless and His throne room is the most joyful place in all the universe. God delights in who He is and all that he does. And what the Father finds His greatest delight in is His Son. At both Jesus’ baptism as well as His transfiguration, the Father affirms the great pleasure He finds in His Son. John Piper says this: “When God declares openly that He loves and delights in His Son, He gives a visual demonstration of the Son’s unimaginable glory. His face shown like the sun, His garments became translucent with light, and the disciples fell on their faces. The point is not merely that humans should stand in awe of such glory, but that God Himself takes full pleasure in the radiance of His Son. He reveals Him in blinding light and then says this is my delight.”

In John 17, on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus goes away to be with the Father. In His great mercy, God allows us to be a part of the conversation shared between the Father and the Son on that evening. John 17 is truly a passage unlike any other in Scripture. Those who read it are invited into the Holy of Holies, so to speak. And Jesus, focused on the events of the coming morning, begins His time with the Father with these words: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you….I have glorified you on the earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the foundation of the world….Father, I desire those you have given me to be with me where I am, that they would see my glory, which you have given me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:1, 4-5, 24). Jesus understood clearly that the events of the following morning were central to the display of His glory.

To understand the work of Christ on the cross is fundamentally to gaze upon the beauty and majesty of all that makes Him a God worthy of our worship and devotion. All of His perfections are displayed supremely at the cross. His holiness, His justice, His righteousness, His mercy, His compassion, His love, his humility, etc… All of them are most powerfully exhibited there. These are the things that make Christ glorious. These are the things that declare His worthiness of our adoration and allegiance. While Christ is purchasing salvation for mankind, He is revealing Himself in the process. And it is as if, as His arms are stretched out upon the cross, He invites the world to stand and gaze, to behold Him in all the splendor of His glory and power.

Let us remember to see the cross of Christ as the supreme revelation of God to man. Nowhere else will we see all that God is so clearly put on display to mankind. May we, like Calvin, find in the cross a splendid theatre.

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