The cross is a familiar object. It’s been fashioned into jewelry, wall art, and various household trinkets, but before it was gold (or silver, etc.), it was rugged.
I. It was rugged by design
- As a symbol – The Romans didn’t invent the cross, but they perfected it as their method to execute non-Roman criminals and rebels. It was a brutal reminder to the world that any who dared test their imperial sovereignty would get the cross as a consequence (which is why Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24 to “take up your cross and follow” wouldn’t have sounded poetic, but sobering).
- As a process – It was meant to be a slow, excruciating, humiliating death. It started with a scourging, which was done by an expert “Lictor” swinging a “Flagrum”. His choice of whip (one with leather only or one including metal/bone fragments) determined the severity of the lashes.
II. It was rugged as the altar for our sin
- The Cup – when Jesus prayed in the garden prior to the crucifixion, He knew the physical aspects of what was coming, but “the cup” was the struggle. The cup was the full wrath of God to be poured out on sin. There simply was no other way, and He said, “Your will be done”.
- The Payment – during the three hours of darkness, the weight of mankind’s darkest sins and cruelties were laid on Jesus in a crushing blow of blunt-force trauma. The Bible says in Romans 5:8 that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knew the full scope of sin’s price tag and still chose to make the transaction – “It is finished!”
- The Veil – Once Jesus gave up His spirit (by His own choice), the great symbol of separation between God and man, the Temple Veil, was violently torn open. It wasn’t tenderly cut while soft music played, it was ripped with Divine authority as a permanent invitation to those “in Christ” to enter into the Most Holy Place and talk openly with our High Priest – Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).
III. It’s rugged because it confronts us
- The reality – In Jesus’ great conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, while leading up to very familiar verse 16, He said this, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” As a Jewish leader, Nicodemus would have immediately recognized the symbol of Israel’s rebellion and God’s forgiveness. The cross revealed the ugliness of sin.
- The response – In the end, Nicodemus stood up to be counted among the disciples of Christ. He personally helped take down the body and prepare it for burial (John 19:39). He was no longer just privately curious, he was willing to be publicly identified with Jesus. How about you?