Views & Reviews
Celebrating the Cross
No word in human language has become more universally known than the word “cross”. The history of the world since the death of Christ has been measured by the distance which separates events from it. The symbol and principal content of the Christian religion and of Christian civilisation is found in this one word… cross.
The suffering implied in crucifixion naturally made the cross a symbol of pain, distress and burden-bearing. Thus Jesus used it himself in Matthew 16:24. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”.
The cross stands for the preaching of the doctrine of the Atonement. It expresses the bond of unity between the Jews and the Gentiles, and between the believers and Christ. It also symbolises sanctification. The cross is the centre and circumference of the preaching of the apostles and of the life of the New Testament church.
As an instrument of death, the cross was detested by the Jews. It became the stumbling-block to them in accepting Christ as the promised Messiah. Their logic is that anyone accursed of God cannot be their Messiah. To understand the assumption of the Jews, we can read what Galatians 3:13 says. 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.”
The cross was not considered differently by the Romans. “Let the very name of the cross be far away not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears” (Cicero Pro Rabirio 5). A Roman citizen was exempt from this form of death since it was considered the death of a slave. The punishment by crucifixion was meted out for such crimes as treason, desertion in the face of the enemy, robbery, assassination, sedition, etc. The suffering of death by crucifixion was intense.It was extremely painful and no part of the body was spared.In short, the victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths.
Everybody has a reason to celebrate at specific times and occasions or events. We celebrate finding a job or a promotion. We celebrate achievements of one kind or the other. We celebrate a house we build. We celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and jubilees. We also celebrate different festivals. But above all celebrations, we celebrate the cross the most. Why do we celebrate the cross associated with a history of inhuman torture, gruesome execution and horrible slow death?
We celebrate the cross because the cross is where God demonstrated his great love for us. God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ was the good shepherd who lay down his life for the sheep, you and I. He was the unblemished sacrificial lamb of God without defects. He became our High Priest and he sacrificed for our sins once for all when he offered himself.
The cross is the reason for our happiness, the reason for our joy, the reason for our freedom, the reason for our hope, the reason why our case is different from the world. The cross set us free from the bondage of sin, death and eternal condemnation. We were dead in sins but God made us alive with Christ. The temple veil that separated the Holy of Holies was torn into two, from top to bottom. Being reconciled with God through the dead and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we now have direct access to the Holy of Holies, the throne of grace. Our sins which stood against us and condemned us are forever cancelled… nailed to the cross.