Most all of us have an image of a cross somewhere; may be on a shirt, it could be on earrings or a necklace. I have one on my Bible, you may also or possibly on a notebook. I don’t have one on the bumper of my car, but a lot of people do as well as on key chains or even hanging from the rear view mirror. There are probably other places that I am overlooking, but the image of the cross is all over and for many it has become a fashion statement.
This positive image of the cross wasn’t always there. Galatians 3:13 tells us that anyone who has been hung on a tree (which is a reference to the cross) is cursed. It is an Old Testament concept that predated Jesus’ crucifixion by hundreds of years. The concept then was to show you had conquered someone by hanging their body on a tree or the city wall as a form of humiliation. We see how, out of respect, soldiers who were loyal to King Saul took down his and Jonathan’s bodies that were hung out when they were defeated. So when Jesus came along walking the roads of Israel, the idea of hanging on a cross was anything but positive.
Another less than positive aspect of the cross was what it was used for. It was an instrument of torture. Yes, there was the humiliation already talked about, but in those cases it was a dead body that was displayed. In Jesus’ day the body wasn’t dead when first placed on the cross. Yes, there was the display of humiliation and the example for others to tow the line or receive the same punishment, but even more –there was incredible pain. The Greek word is “a well known instrument of most cruel and ignominious punishment”. Torture, unfortunately has been something man has always been good at, and in the case the Romans, crucifixion was a very effective torture they had learned from the Phoenicians.
Though we have the nice image of two pieces of wood placed together to make a cross, that wasn’t the original design. Basically it was an upright stake or pole. It wasn’t until the late second century that the “T” shape was used and five hundred years later that the cross we know of today was used. And throughout these time periods and today, there has always been the tempting problem of worshiping the image, rather than what it stands for.
The original idea of the cross was shaped somewhat different than we have today and it was a long way from the fashion statement we see it as. But as we push all of that aside, how can we not be grateful when we see the image of a cross, regardless of it’s shape? It is where my sins were nailed. It is where the divide between me and my heavenly father was removed. It was where the ultimate act of love was displayed. It was God reaching His hand down to me through the body of His Son. So regardless of how it looks or what it’s purpose was in Rome, it is something to be thankful for. At this time of year when we focus on thankfulness, let’s not worship the image of a cross, but be thankful for the gift that took place on it.
Thankful for the Cross,