Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why the Cross?

A Cross

Today we find them posted on churches and hospitals. They are a statement to the world of what Messiah sacrificed to give us life, and to remind us that there is hope for our dark world. But in reality, a cross means anything but hope, redemption, or life. If you had walked down the dusty roads to Jerusalem in the first century and saw a cross, hope would not even be on the radar. Where a cross on a hospital or church today means life and healing, a cross on a structure then would have been the symbol used for a torture chamber. A cross is not a beautiful thing. It is the symbol of ultimate suffering and death.

Death. The Romans used the cross as their torture and death machine. When they came conquering, they lined the main roads with crosses, holding the bodies of rebels and criminals, both dead and dying. It was the most painful, humiliating way to die in the first century. The victim was stripped of all dignity, beat to a pulp, nailed fast like a piece of wood, and left to die alone and in unimaginable pain. The worse part is, it wasn't the pain that killed them, they died of suffocation. 

Subjection. So as the first century Jew traveled up the main road to Jerusalem, they had to walk by these horrors. They shielded their eyes and turned away from the sight. It caused their stomach to turn and their hearts to melt with sorrow.  It brought to mind all of the atrocities Rome had committed against them. It reminded them that they were still under Roman rule. To them, a cross was a statement, but not one of hope. It reminded them that the Messiah still had not come and delivered them from their oppressors and they were still left waiting. The cross mocked them. 

Cursed. This is what a cross meant. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, "...he that is hanged is accursed of God." No one sent from God hangs on a cross. Messiah's do not die on crosses, because the cross means they are cursed of God. When Jesus hung on that cross, it signaled to all Israel the end of their hope, the hope that He was the Anointed One. 

A Cross. Utter disgrace. Ultimate suffering. Ugly. Hopeless. Despair. 

A cross meant darkness had won. 
Freedom was only a joke.
God had turned His back. 

It was the absolute worst way Jesus could have died. 
But it was the best way He could have died. 

Because when Jesus walked this earth, it was a world of political unrest, sickness, pain, and death. Kinda like today. Maybe, the same as today. When the Messiah was to come, He was supposed to bring peace, healing, and wholeness to this broken world. He was supposed to make everything right with the world. That day he stood up in the synagogue and read Isaiah 61 proclaiming that He was the Anointed One, He was making a statement.

But His statement only received blank stares, and I can imagine why. They had been through this before. They were thinking, "The world is broken, everything is hopeless, people are dying, and you are not the first one to promise us redemption. Are you going to disappoint our hopes just like everyone else has?"

And and He did heal, save, set free, and preached the coming Kingdom of God, but it seemed like He did disappoint them in the end. He died like every other rebel had died. That day when the Romans nailed Jesus to a cross, they were making a statement. "Rome is still the winner." Death struck its final blow, and the grave received its prize.

But, He didn't stay that way.
He rose, and right there, right at that moment, the statement was made, He paid the price, and we know the payment went through because He walked out of the tomb. He was the One making a statement.
"You see that cross, the worst, ugliest, most painful thing you can imagine?  No more. 
Because death has become life."
The curse has become a blessing
Heartache has been turned to joy
Despair into hope.
Pain into healing
Brokenness into beauty

So why the Cross? Because the Cross is the icon of death turned the symbol of life.  It means that defeat can become victory. It means there is nothing to hard. It is never too late.  Every situation can be turned around, every broken heart can be healed, every captive can be set free, the blind can see, every hopeless situation can be worked out, just as Isaiah 61 has promised. The end is not the end.

I'm not saying it will be easy and that everything will be the same. I'm not saying that the solution is simple. There are times when you feel like you are completely alone, barely holding on. Your faith is shaken, and all hope is gone. It seems impossible to believe that the promise of Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He hath made everything beautiful in His time," can possibly come to pass in your situation, and that its not worth going on. But, in this dark time, remember the Cross, because with the Cross, its not the end,
And if its not the end, 
The story isn't over,
And if the story isn't over
There's no reason to close the book 

So don't give up. There is hope, and that hope is in the Cross.  He will make everything beautiful in His time. 

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, ma'am. Can't believe I just now saw this. :-) What a way to return from an absence.