The paradox of the cross is that it reveals mankind's ugliness on the one hand, but it also reveals God's beauty on the other hand.
The Ugliness of the cross
The cross was the most humiliating, excruciating, torturous public method of execution possible. Victims would be stripped naked, tied to a post, and scourged and flogged with leather whips into which were woven metal or glass designed to rip the skin from the bone.
The victims were made to walk, often through the most public parts of town, carrying the cross beam of wood upon their already sore back.
They were then nailed to a tree by their ankles and wrists, and would then hang usually besides a crowded place, screaming in agony as they hung there, only to die of suffocation as their necks gave way to exhaustion and blocked their windpipes.
This brutal form of punishment was reserved for thieves, murderers, or insurgents against the Roman empire. This was the awful, gruesome punishment they gave the son of God.
The ugliness of the cross is revealed in the depths to which the religious leaders and the Roman officials stooped, to murdering an innocent, blameless man, even God incarnate.
The cross is ugly as it is a symbol of curse. In Deut. 21:23 we read, "for he that is hanged is accursed of God"
Our Lord Jesus Christ was made a curse for us at the cross and bore all our sin, past, present, and future.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.
Surely, he took up our pain, and bore our suffering, yet we considered him, punished by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all like sheep have gone astray: each of us has turned to our own way: and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all
(Isa. 53: 4-6)
Amid its ugliness, the cross is also paradoxically beautiful.
The Beauty of the Cross
The cross is beautiful because it reveals the depths to which the grace and love of God will go to redeem us to Himself and save us from the grip of Satan, sin, and death.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
(2 Cor. 5:21)
If the cross reveals mankind's ugliness, it also reveals God's beauty that will save the world.
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
(John 3: 16-17)
We were the ones that needed to be saved from the grip of sin and death and from the power of the enemy. We are the object of his affection, and he wanted to demolish every barrier that prevented us from being able to know him, walk with him and love him.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.
Jesus calls us to imitate him and take up our cross. That means laying down and forsaking the way of the world, which is vengeance, retribution, judgment, unforgiveness, power and control. Taking up the cross is the way of forgiveness, of turning the other cheek, or of seeking the right to revenge. It is laying down the right to make our own way, instead choosing His way, even if it means being misunderstood, persecuted, or maligned. Therefore, the cross is our symbol. We die with Christ and are raised to newness of life in him. We die to sin and rise to freedom in Jesus. We die to self and learn the justice of obedience.
When Christ cried, “it is finished” at the cross and voluntarily laid down His life to the Father’s will, the Father responded by tearing the veil in the temple in two from top to bottom.
The veil symbolically separated man from God and when the Father tore the veil in two, it powerfully signified that access to God which had been denied previously was now freely available to all—but it is only available if you come via the cross of Jesus Christ.