The Power of the Cross
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 (Colossians 2:13–14).
Nothing could be weaker than hanging from the cross. His hands and feet sewn with nails to agony. His bare and broken body put on display for all to see. His lungs slowly, inescapably collapsing — one excruciating breath at a time. His enemies laugh, delighting in his dying. His friends all withdraw and hide. He died between two hostile offenders: affliction and humiliation.
The way the rulers and authorities tortured Jesus was meant to magnify and degrade his weakness. “The chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he *cannot* save himself.’ . . . And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way” (Matthew 27:41–44). They could have killed him quietly, but they wanted the whole world to see what he could not do. They wanted everyone to see just how weak he really was.
What looked like weakness, however, could not have been any stronger. By attempting to prey on a seemingly defenseless man, his murderers only unleashed the full intensity and brilliance of divine power. In the weakest, most pitiful moment imaginable, Jesus defeated the two most intimidating enemies you have ever known: your sin and the armies of Satan against you.
The apostle Paul writes, “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh . . .” (Colossians 2:13). We won’t appreciate the power of Christ if we don’t recognize just how helpless we were (and are) without him. We were dead in our sin — not sick, not broken, not misguided, not flawed, but dead. From the day we were born, we laid in a grave of our own making, with hearts spiritually and emotionally incapable of loving Jesus. Sin swallowed every ounce of our hope, and yet we still loved our sin (John 3:19).
But God did not leave our lifeless souls in the grave. Paul continues, “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” (Colossians 2:13). God sent his Son, who swallowed every ounce of our sin, bearing it on the cross, absorbing the wrath we deserved, and canceling a debt we could never pay. In the richness of his mercy, God loved us with a great love (Ephesians 2:4), even when we had mocked and rejected that love.
Reflecting on this mercy, Paul prays that we might know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19–20). If we really knew the kind of power God used to revive our once-dead hearts, we would not take our faith, or his power, for granted. We would never mistake the cross for weakness.
But God not only defeated our sin at the cross. With those same nails, he won his ages-long war with evil, a war that began before the first child was born. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:14–15). In Christ’s weakest moment, he disarmed some of the most powerful forces the world has ever known. He not only disarmed them, but he triumphed over them. And he not only triumphed over them, but he humiliated them.
We have no idea what power lies beneath the surface of what we can see — the rulers and authorities of darkness that prowl, and tempt, and deceive, and corrupt. The sin crouching at your door is only one small part of a hostile and global mutiny against the Maker of heaven and earth. Do you live with an awareness of the massive spiritual forces lining up, every single day, against your faith in Jesus?
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” Paul writes, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). For now, we wrestle against forces much greater than ourselves. But we wrestle knowing that our Savior disarmed them with the nails in his hands and defeated them with his last breath. We fight knowing that “he who is in [us] is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Even while we wait for our King to return, and finish off evil once and for all, we know we have the final victory in Christ. His strength, in weakness, has borne everything that once condemned us. The power of his cross has crushed everything that might threaten us.