It’s hard to travel 100 miles in any direction in the world today without encountering the symbol of the cross.
In fact, no symbol in the history of mankind has gone through such a transformation from its origins.
The cross was first an instrument of torture and death reserved for traitors and violent criminals.
How strange it is that such a symbol can be found everywhere in the world as a form of art, jewelry and architecture. There is something incredulously astonishing about this reality!
Yet when you see the how God is revealed in Scripture, it’s not too surprising that God would choose the ignominy of the cross as the central symbol of salvation. God delights in humbling the prideful assumptions of human arrogance.
We must understand that something exceptional happened when they hung Jesus on a cross. Thousands had suffered crucifixion prior to Jesus but his crucifixion was different from all others.
The crucifixion of Jesus not only transformed the way people understood the cross, it changed the course of human history.
“The cross should have been an embarrassment to the early church. What would people think when they discovered that the founder of Christianity had been executed like a low-life criminal? But instead of denying this, or covering it up, Christians advertised it. The very thing that most people considered too obscene to whisper in polite company, Christians were broadcasting in the streets” (Philip Graham Ryken).
Christians embrace the cross as a precious symbol of faith. They even spoke of boasting in the cross.
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gala. 6:14).
Something happened on the cross and to the cross when Jesus was crucified. It turned this ignominious symbol of death into a glorious symbol of hope for life beyond death.
When the Roman governor, Pilate, heard that the religious authorities accused Jesus of blaspheme, he gave them permission to judge him according to their law. But such judgment would have required stoning as the method of death.
The religious leaders insisted that Jesus be crucified because they knew that Scripture states that the person who is hung on the tree is cursed of God. They wanted the one who claimed to be the Son of God to be viewed as cursed of God.
How blind they were to what God was doing!
The apostle Paul wrote, “Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13).
Simply put, Jesus died for sinners like you and me. He died because death is the punishment sin deserves. He died to take our punishment for us and to free us from the fear of death.
“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or the universe cuts us down in size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size” (John Stott).