How did an ancient torture device become a symbol of hope?
The cross is a simple device. It is just two boards laid across each other at right angles. This symbol has been a cultural image since the earliest human civilizations. There are many cross-shaped depictions in European cult caves, dating back to the earliest stages of human cultural development in the stone age. But wasn’t the cross a torture device? How has it become such a symbol of faith?
The Persians might have been the first to use this shape as a form of punishment. “Crucifixion was an ancient method of execution practiced in the Roman Empire and neighboring Mediterranean cultures, such as the Persian Empire, where a person was nailed to a large wooden cross or stake and left to hang until dead. Contrary to popular belief, those crucified did not die through the loss of blood but through asphyxiation as they could no longer hold themselves up to breathe.
The purpose of crucifixion was to provide a gruesome public way to execute criminals and dissenters so that the masses would be dissuaded from breaking the law. In the Roman Empire, crucifixions were usually carried out in public areas, especially near roads where many would walk by to view the frightening power of the state.” However, through the crucifixion of one special man the meaning of this symbol completely changed.
Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, changed the meaning of the cross on the fateful day of His crucifixion. He was crucified at a public place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Instead of a symbol of state power, the early Christians took the cross and made it a symbol of hope. Jesus was crucified, buried, and three days later conquered death. His sacrifice allowed all sins to be washed away. The cross meant to incite fear played a huge role in our redemption. “By the early third century, the cross had become so closely associated with Christ that Clement of Alexandria, could without fear of ambiguity use the phrase τὸ κυριακὸν σημεῖον (the Lord’s sign) to mean the cross.”
Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making, describes Jesus’s actions on the cross. “On the cross, we believe, Jesus did the one thing no human being has been able to do before or since. He suffered the full weight of the human story of rebellion against God. He was literally impaled on the worse that culture can do.” Because of this redemption, we have great hope. We remember the cross with humility and hope. Our salvation is complete because Jesus conquered death on that tree.
Well, what does this mean for us, my fellow followers and readers? One, we should understand that the cross was once meant to cause fear now symbolizes hope. Secondly, we should share that knowledge with everyone. We need to make a joyful noise and share the amazing sacrifice of our Lord.
As always, thank you for reading my thoughts. I always enjoy reading your comments. What do you think is the best way to reach people with the Good News? Did you realize the history of The Cross? Please reach out if you have other topics you want to delve into.