Summary: What does the cross symbolize?
When we look at a cross today what do we think about? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see a cross?
What do we think when we see a person wearing a cross around their neck or in their ear lobes?
Does the cross stand for something to us today? When we read that Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily and follow Him, do we take that to mean that He meant for us to wear necklaces and earrings? Did He mean that we were to put them on our churches or did it mean something deeper than that?
Every state in the U.S.A. has a state flower and a state tree as symbols. Some also have a state fish, a state stone, even a state insect. Massachusetts has nineteen such symbols. Christianity has only one, the cross.
The cross, comprised of wooden timbers and iron spikes, was the primary means of execution in the first century. It was first used by the Phoenicians and later adopted by the Romans. The cross was a grim instrument of death, and the torture of it can only be described as agony. Because the Jews of the first century lived under Roman rule, criminals declared guilty of capital crimes were crucified.
What does the cross symbolize?
I. THE CROSS SYMBOLIZES REJECTION
Read John 18:40-19:6
LUKE 9:22 saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day."
LUKE17: 25 "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
LUKE 20:17 But Jesus looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: ’The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone’?
Whenever a person was about to face execution on a cross it meant the society was rejecting them, that all hope had been lost for the person.
LUKE 6:22-23 "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. "Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
Jesus told us that if we were going to follow Him, we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. Jesus knew that the cross was going to be tough, but He took it up anyway.
This means that we will suffer rejection from people at times. Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
JOHN 1:11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
The cross symbolizes rejection by man.
There is a paradox here. The cross symbolized rejection by man, but acceptance by God.
II. THE CROSS SYMBOLIZES SUFFERING AND HUMILIATION
Cicero stated concerning the cross the following: Even the mere word, cross, must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears.
READ John 19:16-22. Point out Jesus bearing His own cross.
Death on a cross is said to be one of the most excruciating deaths imaginable.
The cross was reserved for criminals. For robbery and murder, Roman slaves were stripped naked and crucified. The sinless Son of God received the same shameful treatment.
HEBREWS 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus was beaten with an instrument that was made of a wooden handle with long strips of leather attached to it that had bits of bone and metal sewn into the tips. This would literally tear the flesh off of the bone when it struck. The usually punishment was 39 lashes with this. The person wielding this knew how to torture the person without killing them.
Sometimes when we take up our cross, we will also suffer. Paul said that he gladly suffered the loss of all for the cause of Christ.
There is also a paradox here. Jesus asked what benefit it is for us to gain the whole world, yet lose our soul? Jesus tells us that even if we suffered for His namesake, there is a reward and a crown of glory waiting for us! Paul knew that what He lost was garbage compared to knowing Jesus as His Lord! (Philippians 3:8)