Summary: 21st century Christians have made the cross into a showpiece of artwork, but the cross that Jesus died on was never intended to be a showpiece, or fine art.
It Was Not A Pretty Cross
Rev. Eric D. Smith
22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
As I was praying the other night, I remember looking up at the cross that we have hanging on the wall. As I looked at the cross and reflected on the pain and suffering that Jesus had to endure on the cross, the words came flooding into my heart, "The Cross That Jesus Died On Was Not A Pretty Cross." This is what I want to preach to you about this morning. Whether it is a cross such as the one hanging up on the wall behind me, or if you would attempt to purchase a wooden cross in a Bible Book Store, most of what you would find would be pretty, hand carved, wooden cross. A craftsman or a production machine would have finished a wooden product to make it a fine quality showpiece to hang in someone’s home. Twenty-first century Christians have made the cross into a showpiece of artwork, but the cross that Jesus died on was never intended to be a showpiece, or fine art.
Fine wood work today is usually made out of a high quality wood, or a baser wood that has a veneer overlaid on it. The cross was neither. To veneer something means to face or cover (an object) with a more desirable material than the existing basic one. Veneering is to give a superficially good or pleasing appearance to something that was not as pleasant before. The construction of the cross that Jesus died on was neither of high quality, nor was it veneered to appear more expensive than it was. We cannot veneer the cross simply because we think that it was too crude when Jesus died on it.
The cross was not polished, nor smooth. The kind of crosses that we like today are eloquent and pretty, but not so with the cross that Jesus die on. It was roughly sawn and crudely cut. They did not take the time to knock off the splintering, jagged edges. With Jesus’ garments having been ripped away for the brutal beating with the whip, they then threw the purple robe on Him only to mock Him as a king. Then the purple robe was taken back off of Him, His own clothes that had been previously removed were thrown back on according to Mark 15:20, and then He was commanded to carry this crudely sawn cross on the back that had just been ripped apart by the scourging. Americans have been spoiled by a court system that prevents cruel and unusual punishment. But not so with the Roman court system of that day. Even if Jesus had never endured the scourging, a man sentenced to be crucified, would have been already bleeding by the time he carried his cross to the place of crucifixion. But why would that have bothered the Roman soldiers?