The cross. It has many different meanings for many different people:
A fashion statement.
A bumper sticker.
For many, it seems that if Christianity were a football team, the cross would be our logo and Jesus would be our mascot.
I am not anti-cross – fashion statement, wall art, bumper sticker, or anything else. The more we see it, the better, in my opinion. Even if the person wearing it or displaying it doesn’t fully get it. I get it, and it reminds me of the depth of God’s love.
However, historically, long before the cross represented Christianity, it spoke of something far more menacing: the power and authority of Rome. The cross was designed to send a clear message: “Rome is in charge, and this is what happens to those who interfere.”
This was why the parade to Golgotha was long and public – it shamed the criminal and warned the rebels.
This is why the upright beams of crosses were often posted permanently outside the city walls.
This is why the Roman soldiers beat their victims to a bloody pulp, but tried hard to keep them alive. A public crucifixion was great advertising for Rome. It was the severest form of government propaganda.
For a few hundred years, the cross stood for the power and authority of Rome. But not anymore. Rome has come and gone, and there’s a new Kingdom that cannot be shaken that is represented by the cross now. Because of Jesus’ humility and obedience to the point of death, the cross holds far greater significance than ever before.
Here are 8 things that the cross means to us today…
Philippians 2:5–8 – Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
As if the Creator becoming a creation wasn’t humbling enough, the sinless God-man, Jesus Christ, died the torturous death of a condemned criminal!
Galatians 3:13 – Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)
Jesus redeemed us from sin by taking our place on the cross. He. Took. Our. Place. It should have been us!
Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Normally, boasting isn’t encouraged, but in this case it is. This isn’t arrogance though, Paul is speaking of confidence in the finished work of Christ and the cross. After all, we don’t fight for victory, but from the victory of the cross!
Hebrews 2:9 – But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
When Jesus arrived at Golgotha, Mark 15:23 says “they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink.” Some of the Jerusalem women often gave this cocktail to crucifixion victims to numb their pain, but Mark 15 says, “He [Jesus] did not take it.” Jesus chose to “taste death” undiluted, at full strength. He tasted death so that we don’t have to!
1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
This was a bold move for Paul to tell first-century Christians that the cross no longer stood for the power of Rome. It now reminds us of the power of God! As he wrote later, “Death is swallowed up by victory!” (1 Corinthians 15)
Colossians 1:20 – and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
The cross is the only way for sinful man to make peace with the holy God.
Colossians 2:14 – having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Jesus wasn’t the only thing that hung on that cross that day. According to this text, my sin, condemnation and death itself also hung there! When Jesus died, death itself was also put to death!
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The cross forever stands as a visual reminder of God’s love.
1 John 4:8 says that God is love. Jesus is the visible, tangible proof of that love. God wasn’t satisfied with talking about His love, writing about His love, or sending people to tell us about His love; He chose to step out of heaven and demonstrate His love.
In Mark 15, the onlookers, soldiers, and Jewish leaders mocked Jesus because He couldn’t come down from the cross.
Make no mistake though. It’s not that Jesus couldn’t come down for the cross; it’s that He wouldn’t come down from the cross.
Had Jesus abandoned the cross, He would have abandoned us in our sin.
Had Jesus chosen to save Himself, He would have left us stranded in our sin, and proved that His love for us was not quite complete. At that point, we would say He loved us a lot, but not completely.
However, since He had the power to save Himself, but chose instead to save us, it proves once and for all that there is no limit to His love. There is nothing that God wouldn’t do to save you! THAT is love.
Whenever you see the cross – on a car bumper, as a tattoo, on someone’s clothing – don’t forget its significance. And while you’re thinking about it, talk to someone about it too!