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Summary: While we view the cross as a symbol of victory the Romans would have viewed it as a tool for deterring rebellion

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View of the Cross

February 24, 2008

Views of the Cross: Roman

When we picture the cross we see life. We celebrate the cross because for us it is a symbol of victory. For us the cross means our sins are forgiven. We are made right with God. Through the blood that was shed on the cross we are saved. For us the cross means we won. So we celebrate it. We decorate our homes with it, we wear it on our clothes, we depict in all different forms of art, we surround ourselves with the image of the cross. But this symbol that means life for us was not always a sign of victory. That which means life to us was once a symbol of death. Though we see the cross in a light unlike any other in history we do not totally understand its significance. In order to truly comprehend what the cross is, we have to see it with different eyes. We must look at it not as 21st century Christians but as someone living in the first century. So what we are going to do is look at the cross through the eyes of a Roman and next week through the eyes of the Jews. Understanding the cross is essential, because the truth is you do not understand Christ until you understand His cross.

This symbol of the cross that we celebrate is ironically one that was so offensive that the respectable, cultured writers and historians would rarely describe it. The reason for this scarcity in description is not that crucifixion was an uncommon practice but that it was such a horrific act that historians were reluctant to dwell on the details. In fact the most detail that we have on the crucifixion comes from the Gospel narratives which are surprisingly brief in their description of the process. The Gospel writers simply state: “they crucified Him”. Now there are other writings that have been pieced together along with archeological evidence that has given us a pretty good understanding of crucifixion but the interesting thing is that this topic was so offensive that you wouldn’t bring it up. The cross was not something discussed in polite conversation. It is offensive. And we stand here 2000 years later scared to share our faith because of what people might say, scared to take a stance because people might be offended. I have news for you-the cross has always been offensive. That is not something that is new. While it is strange that Christianity has adopted such an offensive symbol, it is also very fitting, PEOPLE SHOULD BE OFFENDED, people should be upset. For the message of the cross has always been scandalous and offensive, and if when you share the message of Christ with others and no one is getting mad…you are not doing it right. The cross is offensive, period.

The cross is not just offensive, it is shameful. The Crucifixion is one of the most sadistic forms of torture that has been invented by man because it deliberately delayed death until the maximum pain had been inflicted. This particular form of execution was invented by the Persians, practiced by the Egyptians, Indians, and Assyrians, but perfected by the Romans. The Romans turned this particularly cruel form of execution into an art form of pain. Crucifixion does no damage to major organs, nor does it cause severe amounts of blood loss. The benefit of this particular form of punishment is that a person could survive for several days in intense agony. This form of death was also particularly shameful. The victim was stripped naked and nailed to a cross in a public place, often along roadsides so everyone could see them and mock them as the passed by. The shame did not end with their life either, once dead the victim would often be denied burial and their body would be left on the cross to rot or to be picked apart by scavengers. Crucifixion is a revolting practice that is designed to shame its victims. As we see in Hebrews 12:2:


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