The King on the Cross
I suspect that some of us here today are decorating ourselves with an item closely associated with death. That is, some of us, I assume, are wearing crosses. It might be on a necklace or as ear rings. Sometimes people wear a cross on a tee shirt. People get cross tattoos. No doubt at least a few of us here today are wearing crosses.
What does it mean when someone is wearing a cross as an item of decoration? Why would anyone wear a symbol of a device used for execution? I don’t suppose you are wearing a cross because you think of it as a means of execution. Typically, when I see a person wearing a cross, I think that the person must be displaying some kind of commitment to Christ. The only reason we even think about the symbolism of a cross is that the cross is associated with Jesus. In fact, the cross is the most well-recognized symbol of Christianity.
The cross became a symbol of Christianity very early in the life of the church. By the end of the 1st century, Christians were using the cross to identify themselves. The early Christian writer Tertullian, way back in 204 AD, described how it was already a tradition among Christians to trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads. The British Museum contains a piece of jasper gemstone into which has been carved a picture of Christ on the cross. It is likely the oldest picture of Jesus’ crucifixion. Almost all Christian churches have a cross displayed on the steeple and in the front of the auditorium.
For billions of people, the cross is important because it represents the primary purpose for Jesus’ ministry. The cross speaks of Jesus’ substitutionary, sacrificial death. The cross reminds us that Jesus died for our sins.
But the cross ought to remind us of other things as well. Today I’d like to consider several themes that the cross displays:
Note: This message is partially based on the work of Steven J. Cole, “Lesson 107: The King on the Cross (Luke 23:26–49),” in Luke, Steven J. Cole Commentary Series (Dallas: Galaxie Software, 2017), Lk 23:26–49. Edited/modified.