The Cross: It’s everywhere – on top of a church building, marked on a gravestone, worn as a piece of jewellery, a logo for a company and even found on a tasty bun! But have you ever stopped to consider the cross? Why is the cross the symbol of Christian faith? How did a Roman instrument of death and torture become the centrepiece of Christianity? Would you wear a tiny electric chair around your neck? Put a picture of a hangman’s noose on the wall? Have an image of a firing squad as your screen saver or Facebook profile? The cross is such a familiar image to many. Sadly familiarity can breed contempt, well if not contempt then apathy, indifference.
But the cross should provoke a response in us.
Imagine you were there…
Stop. Pause. Picture the Cross. Picture Jesus nailed to it. Allow your mind to think of the events leading up to the moment Jesus gets crucified, nailed to a cross in the place of the skull. Imagine you were there that week. Would you have been part of the crowd or one of the disciples? What were your expectations of Jesus? He is the Messiah, He has been teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God, He has been healing and challenging the religious people to stop hypocrisy and know God personally. He has welcomed sinners to receive forgiveness and raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is getting to be famous; his name is getting known. Some people like him, others fear him. He is challenging the status quo – change is coming. You can feel the expectation rising. He is a deliverer and you live in an occupied country. He is here to set people free, surely a revolution is to come. Surely an army could be raised to kick out the Roman occupiers. A revelation of God’s love was not what you were expecting. A revelation of God’s love hung on a cross was not part of the picture.
You begin the week, full of expectation that as you head into Jerusalem things are going to change. Jesus has been saying some strange stuff about leaving and coming back again but it doesn’t make much sense – there is still so much to do, so much change needed, there is hope that there is more to life than this!
Stop. Pause. Picture the Cross. Picture Jesus nailed to it. From the joy of Palm Sunday when the crowd shouts out Hosanna to the horror and realisation a week later as the crowd demand Crucify Him! From sharing a Passover meal with a Teacher and Friend to falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when he needed you to pray – how did it come to this? Arrested, accused, tried, mocked, spat upon, cursed, betrayed, abandoned by his friends, handed between the religious leaders to Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate who washes his hands of the whole situation.
Imagine you are stood nearby as Jesus is taken and whipped and beaten, with a crown of thorns jammed on his head and then made to carry a heavy crossbeam through the streets of Jerusalem to the place of the skull. This wasn’t part of the plan, or so you thought. It was all part of God’s plan. How could death be the plan? Jesus said He came to bring life and life to the full, He said He was the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life. How can this be? Imagine you were there…what is your response?
Stop. Pause. Picture the Cross. Picture Jesus nailed to it. Think of the words He spoke from the cross – Father Forgive Them for they don’t know what they are doing, concern for his mother and the promise of paradise to criminal, then a cry of thirst and a cry of abandonment to God the Father and finally breathing out ‘It is Finished’. You are shocked, numb, surprised. Jesus is dead. Jesus has been crucified. Imagine you were there…what is your response?
As Christian’s the Cross is a significant, valuable and poignant symbol of faith, but for those first disciples on Good Friday it was an instrument of torture that took their beloved Jesus away from them. As they stood in gazing distance of the cross, as they reflected on the fact that they had let their friend and teacher down, the cross was not a symbol for good but seeming crushing defeat. It was a shock to the system! It was not what they expected! They didn’t understand yet that Jesus withstood all the abuse and paid the price of the Cross. He chose the cross, he chose to die in our place in order to redeem us, to pay for our sin so we could be restored to friendship with God. The greatest surprise of the empty tomb was yet to come.
Take a closer look at the Cross…Can you see mercy, love and grace shining out through the pain and punishment? Can you see the revelation of God’s love? Can you see the plan of salvation through faith in Jesus unfolding before you?
Don’t imagine again that you were there, but picture Jesus stood before you right now asking:
What is your response to the cross?