And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13–15)
Without the love of God in the gospel, “Lead me to the cross,” would be a gruesome, repulsive request. No one asks to witness an execution. No one plans trips to see electric chairs or gallows. They are the scenes of the worst kinds of death and destruction. Lives don’t just end here. They’re taken in shameful, punishing, and public fashion.
That’s what a cross is, remember. It was an invention for severe, violent, and bloody vengeance. Criminals hung there, often naked, nails slammed through their hands and feet, and suffocated to death to warn others tempted to break the law or cross those in power. Crucifixion was an awful, helpless, and excruciating demise and defeat. So we sing lead us to that? We ask God to carry us back to that sickening scene, to the horrors that killed our Savior?
The Hope Behind Christ’s Humiliation
Yes, we plead for God to lead us to that place because behind the horrors something unbelievably good and beautiful was happening. The sweat, the pain, and the blood of Jesus Christ — while real and beyond our imagination — were not the full story. The brutal cruelty the crowds witnessed that day would have struck terror, revulsion, and outrage, but the most important things happening in those moments could not be seen. When defeat seemed so sure and so visible, victory was prevailing behind that cross.
Yes, the nails pierced the flesh and bones of Jesus Christ. That metal wasn’t meant mainly, though, to hold him there in agony. Paul tells us that those nails were made and placed and driven through his hands so that our sins could be forgiven. We were dead in our trespasses (Colossians 2:13). But, “God made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14).
The Victories of Calvary
We return to the cross — that awful and wonderful scene — because it was there that our debt was canceled. Our unrelenting rebellion against an infinite and holy God had earned us an eternity of horror and destruction. The debt could not be counted, and it could not be concealed or overlooked. We were destined for agony and misery unlike anyone has ever has ever known on this earth. But God was willing to put the weight and pain we deserved on his Son when he nailed him to those wooden beams. He conquered our sin, and so purchased our innocence in his eyes and our freedom from guilt, shame, and death.
That was not the end of Christ’s victory at Calvary, though. Paul went on to say, “[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). While are sins were being paid for, God was waging war against Satan and all the spiritual forces of evil. Would darkness win the day when it murdered the very Son of God? No, in those darkest, bleakest hours, he was also sealing his triumph over wickedness and declaring that he would eventually make all things right again, finally reconciling everything — good or bad — to himself through the crucified and risen Christ (Ephesians 1:11).
A Place of Horror and Everlasting Happiness
The Christian life is flooded with the unlikely marriage of joy and sorrow. How could we consider the unlawful, gruesome murder of the Son of God and not be shocked, ashamed, and appalled? The scene is filled with sorrow for anyone who treasures Jesus. And yet there’s a bright, strong sunrise of joy breaking into the darkness of that day. Our sin was defeated, and our ransom paid. God’s love has been poured out on undeserving us. Now, everything else is as loss by comparison to knowing him, Jesus, who experienced the horrors of the cross in order to make us happy in him and with him forever.
Lord, lead us to that awful place where Jesus died, remind us what it cost to cancel our debt, and restore to us the joy you purchased for us with his blood.