By Doug Redford
Do you like to do crossword puzzles? If so, that makes you a cruciverbalist: an impressive sounding word that describes anyone who enjoys creating or solving crossword puzzles.
The first part of that word, cruci, is derived from Latin and means “cross.” Another Latin word, excruciare, which the Romans coined, means “coming out or resulting from the cross.” The pain derived from crucifixion was so intense that the Romans had to create a new word for it, and that word is the source of our word excruciating, which we use to describe anything of extreme or unbearable pain.
That should bring to mind the ex-cruci-ating pain Jesus suffered at the cross. That pain, however, did not result from the cross alone (that was pain enough, along with everything that Jesus experienced prior to his crucifixion) but from the weight and burden of human sin Jesus carried when he died there. Mel Gibson attempted to portray that suffering in his 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ, but one cannot convey spiritual suffering or the depths of divine love on a movie screen or a DVD.
Another word derived from the Latin word cruci is the word crux. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines crux as “a puzzling or difficult problem: an unsolved question.” An essential point to be settled within a discussion or debate is often referred to as “the crux of the matter.”
The cross of Jesus settled what could be considered “a puzzling or difficult problem”: How does a just and holy God punish sin while also forgiving man as a loving and compassionate God? The answer: The Word who was God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14).
The prophet Isaiah, with Spirit-led insight, wrote these words: “The Lord . . . saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:15-16). The crux of the matter was settled at the cross: a settlement we remember each Lord’s Day through Communion.
Yet another word derived from cruci is crucial, meaning something of great importance. Communion provides us with the opportunity to remember how crucial Jesus’ excruciating death was. For without the cross, the crux of the matter of our salvation remains unsolved.
Doug Redford has served in the preaching ministry, as an editor of adult Sunday school curriculum, and as a Bible college professor. Currently he is the minister at Highview Christian Church in Cincinnati.