Why I wear a cross

Do you wear a cross necklace? If not, you probably know someone who does. Do you ever wonder why?

I’m not going to debate whether a cross is a pagan symbol for various Sun-deities. Nor, am I going to debate whether Christians should or shouldn’t wear a cross. I’m also not going to debate whether Jesus was crucified on a “cross” or a “stake.” A case can be made for the later from some Greek translations of the New Testament, but that’s splitting hairs and we’re not going there.

It’s true, the cross symbol predates Christianity centuries before Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t until around 430AD that crosses began to be seen in churches. Over the centuries, this symbol has been both celebrated and perverted by religions worldwide.

In today’s culture I believe the cross has been domesticated…tamed to the point of being irrelevant. It appears on so many things, and its original intent (pagan or sacred) has been largely lost in translation. We see celebrities and athletes adorn themselves with crosses….sometimes in numbers that would cause drowning if they ever fell into deep water. They must be super religious, right?

I have a small cross I wear pretty much 24/7, but not as a fashion statement or good luck talisman that protects me from bad juju. There are no special powers about this piece of gold. I don’t pray to it or worship it in any way.

Soooooo, why do I wear it, you might wonder? After all, a cross or crucifix is representative of one of the most horrific methods of execution known to humankind. History states it was probably the Assyrians and Babylonians who originated this method of torture; but it was the Romans who perfected the art around the first century. It was so torturous that, by decree except in cases of treason, it was rarely used on Roman citizens.

According to Britannica.com:

Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or “scourged,” dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment, where the upright shaft was already fixed in the ground. Stripped of his clothing, he was bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. The crossbeam was then raised high against the upright shaft …. Next, the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft. A ledge inserted about halfway up the upright shaft gave some support to the body. Over the criminal’s head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime. Death ultimately occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation as the body strained under its own weight. It could be hastened by shattering the legs with an iron club, which prevented them from supporting the body’s weight and made inhalation more difficult, accelerating both asphyxiation and shock.

If the sacrificial death of Jesus was needed to redeem and reconcile humankind back to its creator, there surely were less gruesome ways other than crucifixion to make that happen; surely there were quicker methods that would have accomplished this atonement. Why so much brutality? Why so much savagery? Why death on a cross?

What’s missing from our 21st century view of the cross is exactly that….the raw realization of that brutality and savagery Jesus experienced….for his creation. Why did Jesus, the incarnate God, choose to suffer to this extent at the hands of evil? Why…since at any point he could have stopped all of it by simply stepping down off the cross…did  he voluntarily endure six hours of pain, broken bones, thorns pressed into his head, and eventual suffocation of his human form? Would blood from a finger prick make the same statement? It surely could have sufficed for a blood offering. How about a quick spear through the heart? Surely that would have been preferable to six hours of agony.

Which makes this historical event all the more an epiphany moment for me. The cross is representative of both darkest evil and radiating goodness. It’s message is one of both humble surrender and powerful victory. For six hours, evil was unleashed and allowed to do its damnedest against God the Son. And in the end, it appears evil was successful in silencing both Jesus and the movement.

Until three days later when the seemingly impossible happened. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are the perfect bookends to show his sovereign power over sin and death. And, the fact that so many people witnessed and encountered the risen Christ after the fact makes this seemingly impossible event all the more relevant. The authority of the empty tomb trumped the agony and savagery of the cross. It was the ultimate statement that evil did not, could not and will not win in the end. And, that is why this “movement” exploded during the centuries that followed. Too many people witnessed the impossible and Christianity became impossible to stop, despite continued torture and crucifixion of its followers.

That symbol of torture is my reminder of hope; it’s my reminder of how much pain Jesus suffered for my sake; a reminder of how much my life means to God.

A finger prick could never mean as much.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

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A blessed Easter to you

crossToday is called Good Friday and I’m trying to write this post about Easter. On Sunday we’ll say Happy Easter to each other and probably not give it a second thought. After all, there are brunches to eat, egg  hunts to attend and let’s not forget the chocolate in the Easter baskets!

For much of the world, this is how Easter is observed. A celebration of spring and renewal. Colorful eggs, bunnies, new outfits and much-welcomed spring flowers are the themes of the day. The season where we can put winter behind us and look forward to better days.

For Christians, today and Easter Sunday should be much, much more. It’s hard to put into words the significance of Easter outside of the well-worn bible passages. I think so many times we gloss over the events of Good Friday….which was anything but “good” some 2,000+ years ago.

Easter is about renewal…but not of the springtime variety. Sure, spring is the perfect analogy for Easter. It’s the season the world awakes from the “deadness” of winter with new life. Easter is really all about awakening from a different sort of darkness. It’s the sober realization that God didn’t throw up his hands in frustration with us and all the terrible things we do that go against everything God is. It’s the realization that God loves his creation so much that, when sin entered into our lives, he had a plan to reconcile his children back to their rightful place in the universe. But it came through an act so heinous and disturbing that it’s hard to comprehend.

Enter Jesus. Born of a woman in the most humble of circumstances, he grew up and became a very unusual man. Consider him the original Renaissance Man…someone accomplished in a variety of areas of expertise…like the creation of the universe. Yeah, that would qualify.

But this Jesus person….he didn’t spend his time in libraries writing thesis papers or with scholars in intellectual debates. Noooooo, this man spent his time among the poorest of the poor; the outcasts; the ones “respectable” people shunned. He ate with tax collectors and wasn’t afraid to associate with lepers. He went out of his way to heal the sick, blind, deaf, lame….and raise the dead. His knowledge of the Scripture was unsurpassed (probably because he inspired its writing) and his ability to defy the natural laws of the universe both amazed and terrified those that witnessed the events.

As Christians, we understand Jesus was the Son of God, the second person in the Godhead Trinity. As Jesus, he was 100% God and also 100% man. He came to put an end to the separation of a holy God and his creation that fell from grace through Satan’s trickery. For it’s through the sacrificial death of Jesus that mankind is made spotlessly clean in they eyes of God. It’s an action so monumental that only God could pull it off. (If you want something done right, do it yourself……)

I understand it’s almost impossible for some people to see why one man’s death by crucifixion would hold such significance more than 2,000 years after the fact. Why we wear this symbol of torture around our necks and make it front and center to our beliefs. In a nutshell, the symbol of the cross helps us remember God’s grace and the ultimate sacrifice that was made to once and for all put to death sin’s hold on our souls. His resurrection over sin and death is both literal and symbolic…that we have new life in him through the ultimate sacrifice he made for humanity’s sake.

We remember the darkness and death of Good Friday paired with the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday so we never take for granted the sacrifice that was made to set us free from death.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

Behold, I make all things new. ~Rev. 21:5

And, as a mother, I cannot imagine the pain Mary felt watching these events unfold in front of her eyes. After all, this was her first born! Even though she knew her son’s purpose, I’m sure it was little comfort during those dark hours. And I don’t believe any song personifies this more than Mary Did You Know.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv5lKdyrTIg’%5D

So, to you I sincerely wish a very blessed Easter.