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Summary: The cross is the symbol of the Christian faith. It is our central message.

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CSI: Easter 5 of 5 in Series

The Message of the Cross

INTRODUCTION

A teacher’s aide in Pennsylvania was suspended for wearing a necklace with a small, one inch cross. Prior to the suspension, Brenda had been warned by her supervisor either to remove the cross or to conceal it under her blouse whenever she came to school. She was told that

there was a state regulation prohibiting school employees from wearing religious symbols.

For Brenda, however, removing the cross or tucking it in out of sight was a form of denying Christ. She said it was like asking her to take off her wedding ring. "My wedding ring says that I’m a wife and that we’re devoted and we’re committed to each other. And that’s what my cross says to me too. It says I’m a believer in Jesus Christ and I love my Lord and Savior and it’s just who I am."

"My superiors were asking me to hide my faith and, therefore, in a sense they were asking me to deny Christ. In my heart that’s what I felt they were asking me to do," Brenda said.

What would she do? She thought about the matter. Prayed about it, cried over it, and in the end decided not to comply. In her heart, she felt the Lord was saying to her, "Do not deny Me, Do not deny Me." Brenda continued to wear the cross after the deadline and was immediately suspended for one year.

In turn, Brenda has gone to court to get her job back. She filed a lawsuit contending that her constitutional rights have been violated. It is against the law to forbid someone to wear a cross to work. It is a form of religious discrimination.

The symbol of the cross is very precious to 43—year old Brenda Nichol!

The cross is the symbol of the Christian faith. It is our central message.

I Cor. 2:2; 1 Cor. 15:3

Crucifixion

Death by crucifixion was the ultimate humiliation, the ultimate horror, and the ultimate degradation. Tacitus, a Roman Historian, spoke of crucifixion as "A torture fit only for slaves." It was reserved for only the worst of criminals. The act was barbaric and inhumane. The victim was usually naked and the corpse was often left on the cross for the birds and animals to eat. Cicero called it, "The cruelest and the most horrible torture."

The cross was not just any kind of death. Not only was it a painful death but it was a shameful death. As the old hymn says, "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame." Death on a cross, through the eyes of anyone during that time, was obscene and offensive.

One of the earliest drawings of the crucifixion dates from the early 3rd century. It is ancient "graffiti" from Rome which ridicules and mocks the Christian faith. This graffiti depicts a man with the head of a donkey being crucified on a cross. In the foreground is a worshipper with hands lifted high. Then this inscription is written just below the drawing: "Alexmenos worships his god!" The drawing illustrates how contemptible the idea of a crucified Lord was to pagan thinking. No sane person would ever brag that his friend or relative had been crucified. Crucifixion was nothing to be proud of! No sane person would ever boast that he was a follower of a movement whose leader was crucified.

So how is it that Paul, a Jewish rabbi, scarcely twenty years after Jesus’ execution could write, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!" (Gal. 6:14)

TEXT: Romans 5:6—11

I. The Cross Shows Us Our Great Need

A. Christ died for us when we were helpless and ungodly.

1. When we were sinners.

2. When we were enemies of God.

3. When we were subject to his wrath.

B. How important is Reconciliation?

1. Paul uses this word to help us understand the message of the Cross.

2. He uses it three times in two verses.

C. Illustration: Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a famous poet who lived in England during the 19th century. She was educated at home. She learned to read classical Greek, Latin as well as Hebrew. At an early age, she learned to speak several modern languages. Most of all she was admired for her beautiful poetry. Another poet in England with the same last name, Robert Browning, began to write Elizabeth praising her for her poetry. Elizabeth wrote Robert back. Soon a romance began with love poems being passed through the mail. Elizabeth’s most famous love poem began with these now famous words: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." However, Elizabeth’s father strongly disapproved of their budding romance. He forbade her to continue the romance and threatened to disown her. The young couple eloped, were secretly married and settled in Florence, Italy. In Italy, Elizabeth wrote to her parents in England almost every week asking for reconciliation. They never once replied. After ten years of writing, Elizabeth received a huge box in the mail. She opened it and to her dismay, the box contained all of her letters to her parents. None of them had ever been opened! Today her letters of reconciliation are among the most beautiful in English literature. Perhaps if her parents had opened and read only a few of them, reconciliation might have taken place.

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