Symbols: The Cross

There has been a lot of hubbub in the news lately about crosses. First, there has been the huge debate about the cross on the Indian reserve. More recently, Penn State has received criticism that some t-shirts they are selling to students too closely resemble a cross. Why all of this antagonism towards the simple symbol known as the cross? I think that is because the vast majority of people clearly recognize it as that symbol which represents Christianity. Much like the Yin-Yang is representative of Taoism or the Om is representative of Hinduism and the like. Is this the only meaning the cross has? Absolutely not, the cross has had numerous and varied meanings throughout the centuries; but the fact remains that the cross is almost universally associated with Christianity.

Why is the cross so important in Christianity? It is because the cross is symbolic of the hope that is present in the lives of Christians. The hope Christians have in their lives is that they will join God in heaven for all eternity because of the work that was accomplished by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion on a Roman Cross. Titus 3:4-7 speaks this clearly:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
The cross symbolizes and is a reminder of the sacrificial death of Christ. It was through his death on the cross that Christ paid the price for our sins in order that he could grant salvation to those who would accept it (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23). For this reason, we are commanded to daily take up our cross and follow him.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it—Matthew 16:24-26 (Also see, Mark 8:34-35 and Luke 9”23-24).
Jesus clearly commanded that those who would follow him must take up their cross and follow him. Some other similar places Jesus said this is in Matthew 10:38, “and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” and Luke 14: 27, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This statement by Jesus has confused many Christians. There is always the question of what does take up your cross and follow me mean? Before one can truly understand this, there has to be an understanding of what the cross was to Christ. The cross was not a punishment. Pontius Pilate even stated that he saw no reason to have Jesus crucified (Luke 23:13-14). In fact, Jesus could have prevented even being brought before Pilate. When the high priest and the Sanhedrin Council were interrogating him, he answered only one question. Matthew 26:63-66 records the question the high priest asked, Jesus’ answer, and the response of the Council:

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered.
Jesus could have simply answered, “No, I am not the Christ, the Son of God. You have the wrong guy. I am just a teacher (or prophet), but I ain’t God.” If Jesus had answered in that manner, they would have had no choice but to let him go free. However, Jesus answered the question in the affirmative. He declared that he was the Christ, the Son of God and with that answer began his journey to the cross.

Jesus chose the cross; it was his mission, his purpose for coming to earth. It was an expression of his love for us. Jesus made it clear that no one would take his life from him, but that he would lay his life down (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). One of the commands Jesus gave his disciples several times was to love one another. In John 15:12-13 and 1 John 3:16, this love is further explained by Jesus when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That is exactly what Christ did. He laid down his life for us, so that we might live (1 John 4:9).

So how do we take up our cross and follow him? Jesus made this clear as well. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” and then he followed up this statement by explaining in John 14:21“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” The way we take up our cross and follow him is through obedience to his commands. Our obedience to his commandments expresses our love and devotion to him. Furthermore, 1 John 5:3 makes it clear that his commands are not burdensome. In other words, Christ has not given us commandments for the purpose of making us miserable or commandments that he knows we could never keep. He gives them to us as a parent who loves and protects their own child by giving them rules such as “don’t play in the street,” “don’t touch the stove,” “eat your vegetables,” etc.

So we daily take up our cross as we daily strive to live our lives in obedience to the principles and directive contained in the Word of God, the Holy Bible. But before a person can begin to take up their cross, before a person can begin to understand the hope that Christians have, they must have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
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1 Response to "Symbols: The Cross"

  • Anonymous Says:

    That Is some powerful stuff. I love the fact that you back it all up with scripture. Thanks for being a light in a dark world.