Cross is a symbol of Christianity. Where ever Christians live, we see the structure of the cross in different shapes and sizes. Christian churches bear the mark of the cross on and in the buildings. Christians use cross made of different materials as identification. Nowadays it has become a matter of decoration and ornament. It has also been degenerated to be an idol and an object of superstition. People making the sign of the cross in and out of places are just an example of this superstition. The origin of this culture of the cross is based on the record that we find in the four gospels in the Holy Scripture of Christians, ‘The Bible’. Those who do not believe in the Bible even say that the story of Jesus’ crucifixion is only a fiction. They say that it is a cooked up story to spread the religion. But if we contemplate deep into the facts about the cross, we can see that it is of paradoxes. Let us examine some of them.
It is a fact and not a myth. The historical and the archaeological proofs are overwhelming that it cannot be denied. The personal experiences of the people who eye witnessed the act of crucifixion alone is enough to testify its authenticity. Many people who tried to disprove the record of the Bible ended themselves up in believing in the truth of the cross and their lives were transformed. The popular book of Lee Strobell, “The Case of Christ” has proved scientifically beyond doubt that every detailed account of the gospels is accurate. So if we do not accept it, it is as St. Paul says, “foolishness to those who perish.” This means that it is wise to believe in the truth that the cross represents. It is the way to salvation.
It is an Agent for Transformation and not for Degeneration. Cross is the symbol of an idea and it represents a concept. This we see in all religions. For example, a wheel represents time as it has no beginning and no end. The black stone “Kaaba” in Mecca is the identity of Islam. Different characters of god in Hinduism are represented in different images of god. For example, goddess Saraswathi represents the wisdom of god or Lakshmi the wealth. The great Indian philosopher and the former Indian president, Dr. Radhakrishnan says,” what our eyes see and our ears hear, when cultivated, introduces us into a higher world than a material one.” Christian religion also uses many symbols like lighted candle that represents Christ as “the light of the world”, bread and wine as “the body and blood of Christ” etc. In the same way, the cross stands for Christ and it points to the death of Jesus on the cross that brought salvation to the lost mankind. Every one that comes in contact with Jesus and His gospel experiences a transformation of his/her life. This is the proof of what the scripture says: “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) When Saul who persecuted the Christian church had the vision of Jesus, his life was changed and became a martyr of the cross. The Ethiopian eunuch who accepted the gospel became a changed man. Cross is an experience of peace and joy. When Paul and Silas were imprisoned after severe beating, they sang praises. They could do that only because their lives were changed by their faith in Jesus. The physical suffering did not affect their peace of mind. More over, their testimony changed the jailer, as well. Cross leads to a glorious experience that nothing else can give. It is joy, love, peace etc. That was why Paul said, “I glory in the cross of Christ.” To him “To live was Christ” That means that his life was the opportunity for showing the love of Christ in his life. One can experience this only by submitting to the will of God. Only with the power of Jesus one can have this changed life. Paul says, “I can do every thing through Christ who gives me strength.”
Then it is a Call of Challenge and not of Submission. .The character of the cross itself is a challenge. The life of Jesus was a challenge. It was a challenge to sacrifice. That was why he left the glory in heaven and became man and was obedient to His Father till the death on the cross. Though at the Mount of Transfiguration he was convinced of it by Moses and Elijah, still he was in agony in the garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “It is not my will but yours.” The cross therefore challenges to make sacrifices. Jesus said,” If any one would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mathew 16:24) A person who wants to follow Christ, has to sacrifice his self and submit to the will of God. When Jesus called his disciples, they left every thing and followed Him. When Paul was called, he left his prestigious position in his Jewish society and was ready to sacrifice even his life. He said, “For it has been granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe but also to suffer for him” So he could say, “I consider them (all things) rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7) “Whatever was to my profit I consider it as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 8) As the saying goes, “There is no crown with out the cross”
In the modern world of consumerism, sacrifice or denial has no appeal. It goes after pleasure and enjoyment. Sacrifice is not a word found in its ‘dictionary’. But Jesus said,” Whosoever wants to save his life will lose it; whosoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Mathew 16:25)” “The man who loves his life will lose it while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25) So sacrificing things for the sake of Jesus and His cross is only a gain and and not a loss. To have this joy of Christian life, one has to sacrifice the momentary pleasures of this world. The joy of Jesus was obeying His Father. The lasting and paramount joy and satisfaction in one’s life is in pleasing the Creator. All other joys are transitory. The joy of the cross is eternal. Jesus faced the cross with joy. “The author and perfecter of our faith (Jesus) who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2). So we May also face the challenge of the cross with joy and not with grumbling.
The cross is also a promise of Hope and not of despair. It is the hope of eternal life.. Jesus died on the cross to give us eternal life. It is possible only to those who believe in the sacrificial death of Jesus. He died in the place of the sinners. “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus “(Romans 6:23). We as sinners, are condemned to death, But Jesus paid our wages by his death on the cross and now we are free from this punishment of death. Thus the cross points to eternity. It is the only hope for after life with Jesus our Savior. “God so loved the world that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life. “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who perish and life to us who believe.” Let us not miss this hope. The Bible says, “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are more pitied than all men” Some people try to use Jesus for their worldly benefits only. Though it is all right, the main purpose of Jesus’ coming to this world to die is to make us his heirs of eternal life. “Being justified by His Grace, we might become his heirs having the hope of eternity.” (James 3:7) Let us therefore be wise in clinging to this cross that provides us this hope.
Lent is the time that we focus our mind on the sufferings and the death of Jesus, specially the CROSS. Let us shed all our doubts about the love of God that made the eternal HOPE available and surrender ourselves at the foot of the cross where our dear Lord gave Himself for us. Let this season be a season of celebration when we commit ourselves to our Lord and make it a profitable and ever memorable season.
May God BLESS us.
– Cherian Kurian