Summary: How did the Cross get to be the central theme of Christianity?
The Death of Christ
The cross: it is the central theme to Christianity. We identify ourselves, our Lord, our God by particularly cruel form of execution. Yet we display the cross with pride. We wear it on t-shirts, on jewelry, some of us even tattoo it on our bodies. Why is it that we associate ourselves with such an offensive thing as a cross?
When we look at it today the cross is just a commonly used symbol. But it was not always such. The cross was extremely offensive. It was a form of execution that was done by the Romans on foreigners, on people they did not believe were really human. Did you know that it was illegal for a Roman citizen to be crucified except in cases where they revolted against the Roman government? Cyprian a Roman historian writes: “To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder: to crucify him is- What? There is no fitting word that can possible describe so horrible a deed.” Even the Romans found the cross to be offensive. It was the way in which they punished traitors and rebels. It was reserved for the worst of all criminals.
Do you know what happens to a body on the cross? What this form of death that we so proudly display today really was? Our word for excruciating is derived from crucifixion. The word that we use even today to describe an intense, unbearable pain comes from the cross. In fact the Latin word excruciates means ‘out of the cross’. If you have seen the Passion of the Christ with how graphic and intense that movie was, that is a watered down version of what a crucifixion really looked like. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me take a step back.
Jesus has been betrayed. One of his closest friends one of his own disciples has sold him out to his enemies. Jesus is taken by the religious leaders with help temple guards to be tried and executed. Now according to Roman law the Jewish leaders could not just go off and execute someone without permission. The Jewish leaders would have violated almost a dozen of their own laws during Jesus trial, but they cared not for rules they wanted him dead. He was not given a fair hearing. He was guilty and not given a change to prove his innocence. But the Jewish leaders still needed Roman support to execute Jesus. So they take him to procurator of Palestine Pilate.
Being procurator Pilate would have absolute power. There is no appeal higher than his word, except for that of Caesar. However only a Roman citizen could appeal to Caesar so this court was a high as it would go for Jesus. Pilate by all accounts given of his was a self seeking politician. He had been at odds with the Jews since he moved into Palestine. There had been a near massacre, a riot, and a number of red flags in his time. Due to Pilate’s shady past he was being watched very closely by Rome. So when the Jews bring a man to him and demand his death, they don’t even have to bring a charge up against him. They simply call him a criminal and demand death. Jesus trial does not even deserve to be called a trial.