The power of the cross is beyond the physical eyes and what the human mind can comprehend says St. Francis of Assisi. On Good Friday, we reflect on the cross and what it means for our salvation. The power of the cross is what makes Good Friday Good.
Two trees play a very significant role in the history of humanity. This is starting from creation until the redemption of man. The trees are: the tree of life of the book of genesis and the cross of the New Testament.
Like how they sound, the tree of life is a tree of goodness and evil. It is very admiring to the eyes as the ancient serpent affirmed. It is very sweet to the mouth like Eve attested.
Hence, the tree of life was quite pleasurable. The beauty of the tree was accepted easily by our first parents. Hence, it is this tree that led man into suffering and death.
In essence, this is not because of the nature but because man thinks if he eats it he will be like God. He will thereby acquire more life and power. Yet, the opposite was the case.
In the New Testament, we see the tree of the cross. We hate and deride the cross. The cross is not like the tree of Genesis. The tree of Genesis was pleasurable but the tree of the Cross was filled with pains and bitterness.
The cross is an object of mockery, full of suffering and very shameful to behold. We reject and deject the cross.
Then in between these trees of life, the tree of Genesis that was pleasurable to the eyes and taste became the cause of human fall. Then the later tree of the cross, which was full of pains and suffering became the source of salvation.
Later it became the instrument of salvation.
The point is that Man longed for the tree of Genesis and plunged the world into darkness. Then Jesus accepts the tree of the cross which man dejects. What man rejects, Jesus accepts. Then, through the cross Jesus saved man from damnation.
Therefore, the cross maybe full of pains and mockery but behind the cross, there is more to what we see.
By carrying and dying on the cross, Jesus carried shame, mockery, dejection, pain, worst form of execution etc.Let us go into details.
The Cross: The Worst Form of Oppression.
Crucifixion was a common form of Roman suppression used against individuals and movements that the Roman empire considers as threatening.
For example, the Roman prefect Quintilius Varus puts down the Jewish insurrection at the time of Herod’s death. He did this by crucifying two thousand Jews on the roads leading to Jerusalem (Josephus, Jewish War 2.74-76). Also, Seventy years later, when Titus besieged Jerusalem, many tried to escape because of hunger. But He captured many of the jews.
All those that were captured were either scourged or crucified. Josephus the Historian relates that there were up to 500 a day that passed through this execution.
In fact, so many Jews were crucified by the Romans during the destruction of Jerusalem that they did not have sufficient space and ran out of crosses (Jewish War 5.446-451).
So, the Romans see the cross as the worst form of execution and oppression. When someone dies on the cross, He is seen as one who has underwent the worst form of cruel death.
This is what Jesus underwent today.
The Cross: Form of Foolishness
When the Apostle Paul went to the great and intellectual Grecian city of Corinth, he said, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
When Paul described what his message was, he said, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23)
Then, to the people of Corinth the preaching of the cross was foolishness and a form of nonsense. In that great intellectual center, the cross of Christ was a stumbling block to the children of Israel, and to the Gentiles it was sheer idiocy.
The Greek word here is moria, which literally means “idiocy.” Out of this Greek word comes the word moron. This is how the Corinthians evaluated the crucifixion of Christ.
The cross is for them a foolishness.
He said to them that despite this, “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength”. (1 Corinthians 1:25).
This Gospel of Christ and Him crucified is still foolishness to millions who are perishing all over the world today. Yet we can find the answer to all the world’s problems at the foot of the cross.
Here, Paul says, that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (vs 27).
Therefore, the cross that Jesus carries today is seen a worst form of foolishness. It is a stupidity for the Greeks to hear that someone died on the cross.
The Cross: An Abomination.
The Roman writer Cicero described crucifixion as: “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.It is a crime to put a Roman citizen in chains, it is an enormity to flog one, sheer murder to slay one; what then shall I say of crucifixion?
It is impossible to find a word for such an abomination…….Let the very mention of the cross be far removed, not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.”
The cross, to the Romans, is a vile thing. Therefore, they associate it with torture, bleeding, nakedness, and agony. It is an abomination to crucify a Roman Citizen.
They reserve the cross for the most wretched criminals and only criminals that are not Roman citizens, but instead were considered aliens or foreigners.
Therefore, they crucified Jesus as the worst criminal in the eyes of many. Yet, through it, the so-called criminal became the saviour of the world and the most popular till today. So, behind the cross there is salvation.
The Cross: An Instrument of Shame and Disgrace.
Describing crucifixion in the eyes of the Jews, the New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce said, “To die by crucifixion was to plumb the lowest depths of disgrace; it was a punishment reserved for those who were deemed most unfit to live, a punishment for those who were subhuman”.
Philip Ryken summarizes all this with the comment, “The cross was for murderers and rebels, provided they were also slaves or foreigners’.
The point is that the cross was an instrument of shame and disgrace for the Jews and the Romans.
From the New Testament Dictionary of Theology reads “the cross was a shameful thing, designed “to disfigure, make ugly, to expose one to the ridicule of society. Yet Jesus mounted it to take away our shame. What a love!!
The Irony of the Cross.
The cross; a very opposite to the tree of life ,later became the tree of life.What an irony of life.The crowd, the three closest apostles, the other disciples, all ran away from the cross leaving only the Son of man to accept the agony.
The Cross is full of pains and sufferings. But without the cross, there will be no salvation. Here lies the The Power of the Cross.
It is good to bring to your notice here that there is a structure in the human cell we know as laminin.
They are a major component of the basal lamina (one of the layers of the basement membrane), a protein network foundation for most cells and organs. Through this component, one can comprehend the power of the cross.
The laminins are an important and biologically active part of the basal lamina, influencing cell differentiation, migration, and adhesion. Laminin has one long string with two other strings either side which twist around the base, forming a cross.
Hence, what is so amazing about this particular cross-shaped protein is that it is scientists consider it to be the “glue” which holds all tissue together – our skin, intestines, our muscles, would all fall apart without this ‘glue’ protein.
Perhaps we might think it a coincidence, but then again, perhaps God deliberately designed it this way as a sign and a clue that he knew we would discover, to highlight the importance of the cross!
(i) The cross is our salvation. 1 Peter 2:24 says and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
(ii) At the tree of life, the serpent was happy, he seems to have won the battle but at the cross he was defeated. The tree of the cross is not only where our sin is paid for, It is where the devil is conquered, and thus the shape of Christianity. Therefore, Christianity without the cross is baseless and formless.
(iii The Cross is an instrument of peace. In Colossians 1:20 Paul writes “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, whether on earth or in heaven.Through the cross, peace was brought again between heaven and earth. Without the cross who would know our fate?
(iv) The Cross: An instrument of power. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul says “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Therefore, the cross is the source of the christian power. The identity of every christian.
(v) Advancement in the Christian life without the cross is impossible. There is no such thing. Hence, the path to pleasing God always involves the cross.
For example, if you have not yet trusted Jesus Christ as our saviour, you cannot accomplish the goal of pleasing Him without first “embracing the cross”. It is placing our faith and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Hence, you cannot get there without embracing the cross.
(vi) There is no such thing as growth without the cross, there is no such thing as progress without sacrifice. Hence, there is no cross without a crown, no morning without the night.
(vii) It is a sign of discipleship. Jesus says “if you want to be one of my disciples, you have to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Therefore, from all these, the conclusion is that we cannot do without the cross. The cross is our identity. There is no crossless Christianity. This summarises the power of the cross.
1.Every step in life involves a cross. Today, people prefer the attitude of the first parents. We are pursuing and seeking pleasure. We hate and deject the cross. Many of us seek for a life without the cross. We seek pleasure and detest the cross, but later pleasure still plunges us into suffering and difficulties.
Shortcuts to success can be enjoyable at the moment but always painful at the end. For every step in life there is a price to pay and necessary sacrifice to make. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves “what is the nature of the cross required to take that step? For a spouse, it might be crucifying your own desires in the marriage and being God’s kind of spouse first.
For a young person, it might be the cross of avoiding immorality and being focused. It may be a matter of putting off a sinful habit you know you are not going to make progress spiritually until you deal with it. We may not know the power of the cross until you accept that life cannot never improve without sacrifices.
For others, it may involve putting on a right habit or discipline, you know you are not going to make progress until you start doing right in this particular area. For students, it might be crucifying laziness and studying hard. There is a price for every prize.
2. We are not quick to embrace the cross despite the blessings associated with it because there are things very negative associated with the cross.
Do you know what they are: shame, pain and sacrifices. Yet they are worth doing at last. When you embrace the cross, you are opening yourself up to pain. Yet there is no such thing as growth without a cross. Therefore, there is what always stand between you and that goal you want to achieve?: A cross.
The point of all of this is, the cross is an instrument of shame and pain, and Jesus Christ did not let that stop Him from embracing the cross.
2.The early church did not let that pain and shame stop them from embracing the cross. The church that we enjoy today was the seed of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for mankind and humanity. Without the persecutions, the suffering, dedication etc we cannot be what we are.
One of the reasons, things keep on going the wrong way is because we have rejected and dejected the cross. Nobody wants to sacrifice His life. Nobody wants to suffer. and nobody wants to speak up.
We are living in fear. We are afraid of persecution. This is why the system keeps decaying. We do not have a messiah who is willing to sacrifice anything to speak the truth. Everyone is afraid.
3.The question for you and me is…..what are you going to do with our cross?
Are you going to abandon yours because of the pain and shame? Are you going to “think lightly of it”, or are you going to let it stop you from doing what God wants you to do? Before, the crown, there is always the cross. Before the glory, there is always the disgrace, the shame and the painful part of the experience. When we try to jump the cross to the glory, there is always a problem. We must begin from the number one to the finish point. Therefore, we have to accept the cross, if they are part of the journey.
Therefore carry your cross with joy. May God bless you.