“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph lived a wild life. Betrayed by his brothers as a teenager, he quietly ascended to the right hand of Pharaoh, becoming one of the most powerful men in the world. Eventually, he and his brothers reconciled. They were reunited, along with their father, Jacob.
Eventually, Jacob died. After dad’s death, Joseph's brothers wondered if he would exact revenge upon them. The answer? No.
He knew something powerful. They had a design, but so did God. They had a purpose, but so did God. They meant evil, but God meant it for good.
The cross of Christ is this way. The enemies had a purpose, but so did God. Satan had his design, but so did God. “God meant it for good.” Notice briefly:
1. The cross was designed by the Romans to intimidate, but God meant it to embolden.
The Romans intimidated citizens with crucifixion. By strategically placing crucifixions at a thoroughfare, Rome could remind people of their power.
But the cross of Christ has emboldened Christians for thousands of years now. We have gone towards persecution and death, knowing our Lord suffered for us. The more we ponder the cross, the bolder we become.
2. The cross was designed to stop Jesus’ message, but God meant it as the message (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The religious leaders were jealous of Jesus and his following. For them, the cross was the way to silence the heretic once and for all.
But the cross of Christ actually became the message. God used their desire to produce His desire, the life saving message of the gospel. The message of God is the message of the cross.
3. The cross was designed to silence grace, but God meant it as the way to release grace (Luke 22:20).
The religious leaders hated the methodology of Jesus. Watching him abuse their man-made traditions drove them crazy. Seeing him eat with religious outcasts was maddening. The cross was their way of stopping this kindness, this license.
But the cross of Christ is the way mankind taps into the grace of God. We receive His forgiveness, His kindness, His adoption through the gospel message. No cross, no grace.
4. The cross was designed to keep Christ’s message from human ears, but God meant it to put the message in our hearts (Hebrews 8:10).
Again, they so hated the words of Jesus. He continually challenged the religious interpretations of His day. The cross was their way of silencing Him forever.
But the cross of Christ actually made a way for the message to get past our ears and into our hearts. The new covenant had been promised in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It is delivered in Jesus, meaning the message is now written in our hearts. We don’t just hear it. It is now inside us.
5. The cross was designed to destroy a movement, but God meant it to create one (Acts 4:20).
Both the Romans and religious leaders wanted to put a stop to the wild popularity of Jesus. They wanted to put down this rebellion.
But the cross of Christ actually birthed a movement we are still connected to today. Like the apostles of old, many Christians have said, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
6. The cross was designed to stop God, but God used it to continue His work.
Since creation, Satan’s plan has been simple: spark sin in man’s heart. Since God can have nothing to do with sin, this will break God’s friendship with man. Like Balaam’s counsel of old, get them to sin, and God must curse them.
But the cross of Christ actually placed the curse onto Christ. He consumed the wrath of God. As He did, the cross became the means for God to lift the curse off of us, the way for friendship with man to be restored. Satan thought he stopped God’s work, but actually he helped perpetuate it.
7. The cross was designed to cut off the line of David, but God meant it to establish it (Psalm 45:6).
Ever since David received the messianic promises of old, Satan attacked his descendants. To cut off the line of David would cut off the plan of God. To kill Jesus would be part of that plan.
But the cross of Christ established David’s throne. Of Jesus, the psalmist writes: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.” The throne of David is forever established because of the cross.
8. The cross was designed to bring shame, but God meant it to bring glory (Hebrews 12:2).
The Romans used the cross as a way to embarrass the victim. Naked, dying, and powerless, the person on the cross experienced the ultimate in torture and shame.
But the cross of Christ is the instrument by which God brings many sons to glory. Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, so that we might have life.
9. The cross was designed to create rejection, but God meant it to provide acceptance (Ephesians 1:3-6).
They expected the cross to silence Jesus’ following. He would be rejected. Israel’s Messiah came, yet they rejected Him. They despised Him. By extension, God would reject us.
But the cross of Christ is the means of our acceptance by God. Jesus was rejected so that we might be accepted.
10. The cross was designed to cause pain, but God meant it to remove pain (Matthew 11:28).
They made crucifixion as a means of the ultimate in suffering. This prolonged capital punishment was carefully planned to maximize pain. There was nothing quick or humane about it. Extended, maximum suffering was the goal.
But the cross of Christ has become the greatest means to remove the sting of death. The pain of this life is real, but the cross of Christ has ensured millions of coming glory. It has turned our sorrow into joy.
11. The cross was designed to wound, but God meant it to heal (Isaiah 53:5).
Again, the cross was a brutal device. The wounds one experienced there were painful, but death came slowly. The pierced hands and feet, the lashings and beatings, wouldn’t actually kill. Those wounds led to the slow death of a body giving out on the cross.
But the cross of Christ, where Jesus was wounded for us, has actually led to our great healing. Our brokenness has been redeemed. By His stripes we are healed. We came to Jesus a broken mess, but by His cross He puts us back together.
12. The cross was designed to condemn, but God meant it for forgiveness (Romans 8:1).
The guilty were placed on the cross as a sign of their condemnation. Anyone on the cross was supposed to have deserved it. That was the message.
But the cross of Christ actually consumed our guilt and condemnation. He replaced it with God’s acceptance and forgiveness.
13. The cross was designed for death, but God meant it for life (Hebrews 2:10).
Obviously, the ultimate goal of the cross was the death of its victim.
But the cross of Christ was God’s means of bringing life to us. Believers no longer die forever, but live forever, because of Christ.
Joseph's brothers thought he would avenge the wrongs done to him. But Joseph saw more deeply. The worst they could do brought out the wonderful plan of God. Likewise, the cross is not God's worst defeat, but His great victory.