I know we're in the season of Epiphany right now, and Lent and Easter are still far off. But yesterday, during our pastor's sermon, I found myself thinking about the powerful symbolism of the cross. He was showing an image of someone's wrist with a cross tattooed on it, and it provoked me to think about how this symbol of torture has become the symbol of Christ and those who follow Him.
How is it that Christians take and cherish this symbol, this tool of torturous death, and hold it so dear? I think of the old hymn that my mom used to sing to me, "The Old Rugged Cross", and the refrain
So I'll Cherish the Old Rugged Cross
'till my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown.
What is it that causes us to view this terrible instrument of death, one that caused Jesus to suffer and die, and hold on to it as a symbol of our faith? Crucifixion as a means of capital punishment is rare, even though some countries still have it on their books as a means of execution. And some countries still practice it during Lent as a means of faith, although they don't allow the persons being crucified to die. That I cannot understand. But why is it that we place crosses - empty crosses - in our churches in prominent locations. Why to we display them on our cars, in our homes, on our clothes, with jewelry or even tattoos?
Is it because, even though the cross caused his death, he did not stay dead? I noticed that in Protestant churches the cross is empty. It is not a crucifix as our Roman Catholic brethren prefer to display. We choose not to dwell on his death on that device. But seeing that representation, be it the Celtic cross, or a contemporary sculpture, reminds us of the great sacrifice that Jesus did to secure our salvation. That Means of Grace - the crucifixion - was the end of death, and the beginning of Life. So I'll cherish that old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.
Soli Deo Gloria