For over two thousand years, we have looked toward the cross as a symbol of sacrifice and devotion. We have crosses hanging on our walls, around our necks, and on our keychains. Have we used this symbol so frequently in our daily lives that we forget its significance? How can we keep the method of sacrifice at the forefront of symbolic Christianity and yet hold on to the One who gave His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, KJV, Tyndale 1987)? I want to explore Jesus and His cross and hopefully shed some light on the meaning of it all.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Here, we find Jesus forewarning His disciples of His ultimate purpose and plan in laying down His life. I am not sure they understood that Jesus would be crucified at this point. The group had been pursued by the religious and the Romans in the past, each time making their escape. They might have begun to tap into their Spiritual potential, as this was after Peter received revelation and a name change. However, this statement may have been made before Jesus sent the 70 out with Authority (Mark 6:7, Luke 10). Luke 10:1 tells us that Jesus “appointed other seventy also.” These disciples would be those other than the twelve who traveled with Jesus to prepare each city for Jesus’ arrival with great signs and wonders. It appears that the gravity of the situation and complete knowledge of what was to come was misunderstood or supernaturally withheld.
Roman crucifixion “was far more than an instrument of capital punishment. It was a public symbol of indecency and social indignity. Crucifixion was designed to do more than merely kill a man. Its purpose was to humiliate him as well. The cross was intended not only to break a man’s body, but also to crush and defame his spirit” (Sam Storms,10 Powerful Facts About the Cross of Christ & His Crucifixion, Crosswalk.com, https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/10-things-every-christian-should-know-about-the-cross.html, 14 MAR 2018). There were easier ways to punish a man, but the screams of the crucifixion, the stench, and the days of corpses hanging in public view, were all effective deterrents to keep occupied citizens in line. Prolonged suffering provided public testimony to the lengths the establishment would go to prevent such things from happening again. On a cross, Jesus paid the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23) and burned an image into the hearts and minds of believers for all time. Jesus declared through His sacrifice that this would not happen again! He was willing to see reconciliation through a cross, endure the pain, and die a scoundrel’s death (Hebrews 12:2).
We cast this image in gold and hang it around our necks. I am guilty of minimizing the significance and wearing a gold anchor cross with a tiny gold Jesus hanging on it. Was this public testimony compelling? We have grown accustomed to seeing a symbol but not taking up our cross. Read that again; Jesus said, “Take up our cross, and follow Him.” Jesus’ cross brought salvation through sacrifice, but our cross will bring harvest through public testimony! When Jesus sent out the seventy, He instructed them, “Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same” (Luke 10:3-11). I believe this is still our mandate today!
In a world that has elevated self-worth over yesterday’s over-used symbols, I still cling to the cross of Jesus and do not want to forget the sacrifice He made and the glory in store! It amazes me that so many embrace ideas of the new age and being “woke” instead of a life-changing experience with Jesus. I agree with the statement made in the preceding Crosswalk.com article, “The reason for this is three-fold: (1) a diminishing sense of God’s holiness; (2) a diminishing sense of mankind’s sinfulness; and (3) an inordinately increasing sense of self-worth.” People acknowledge the cross as a Christian symbol, and Christians must respond with the Christ message. The love God showed by His sacrifice should be reciprocated by looking in the eyes of humanity with compassion. Jesus proclaimed, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). Jude reminds us, “have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 1:22-23). Not everyone will accept the Gospel, but everyone should have the opportunity to decide. We present Jesus in love and mercy, either way, and you may surprise yourself who picks up their cross and follows Him!