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It is beautiful, yet repulsive.
Jewelry to be worn, but once the dread of all people. Made of gold, decorated with diamonds and precious stones, or simply made with stainless steel its value is inestimable, priceless really.
It wasn’t always so valuable.
There was a time, two thousand years ago, when it was crude and despised, hated by all. Never dreamed to be worn as jewelry or displayed as decoration. There are a few places today where it is still thought of in such terms.
I am writing about the cross.
First used by the Phoenicians and the Persians as a means of execution and for the display of executed political prisoners. Alexander the Great is said to have crucified two thousand residents of Tyre after he conquered that city in 332 BC.
The Romans perfected and expanded the use of this brutal and barbaric practice after seeing it used in Carthage.
After the defeat Spartacus in 71BC, Rome is said to have crucified six thousand slaves along the Appian Way. Josephus records two thousand Jews were crucified in Jerusalem by Rome while putting down a revolt.
The cross was humiliating and degrading way of executing a convicted criminal or political prison.
- The body was stripped of clothing.
- The arms were tied or nailed to the beams of a cross.
- The cross beam was then raised and attached to an upright beam already in place.
- The feet were then nailed or tied to the upright beam, leaving the person hanging naked as the body slowly suffocated in unimaginable pain.
As the prisoner hung on the cross hour after agonizing hour the diaphragm would close leaving them gasping for air. Grasping for oxygen, they would push upward with their nailed feet sending unbelievable pain through their body, grasp a bit of air then plunge backdown, painfully pulling on the nails in their wrist.
Then gasping until their body begged for more air, writhing in pain and lack of oxygen, they would again push themselves upward grasp a bit air and sink down in unimaginable pain.
Each time they would grasp less oxygen and experience greater measures of pain until they could no longer push themselves up and open their diaphragm. Hour after hour their body slowly suffocated in unbearable pain from the nails and the scorching heat of the sun.
How in the world did such a horrible instrument become a thing of beauty?
How did it become a symbol of art and a piece of jewelry people love?
There is only one answer – and that not so simple.
A man living in Israel was found in conflict with the religious leadership and taken to the Roman governor in 32AD. The man was teaching love, mercy, and grace instead of the law. He was forgiving sinners, performing miracles, and healing all who were oppressed of the Devil.
When questioned about the authority and power with which He was doing this work He explained, “I can only do that which I see my Father doing and say what I hear My Father saying… I do not seek My will but the will of My Father… ‘Before Abraham was, I AM… I and My Father are one’” (John 5:19-30; 8:58; 10:30).
He knew they knew He was making Himself equal with God. Indeed, He was God in the flesh. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9 KJV).
Everything about the life of Jesus Christ had been prophesied hundreds of years before His birth; including His virgin birth, the location of His birth, who would be guests after His birth, where He would live, and the power of His ministry.
As He stood before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin on the night of His arrest, they seemed to have no clue who He was, even though the Scriptures they knew by heart declare His identity.
“I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God,” yelled the high priest (Matthew 26:63 NKJV). When Jesus answered in the affirmative, the Sanhedrin declared, “He is guilty of death.”
Jesus was then taken from the religious counsel to the Roman Governor, Pontus Pilate. He was sentenced to the flogging post and then to the cross. All of this seems so much political and religious intrigue. “But wait! There is more!” As the television sales adds say.
God had promised Adam, Eve and Lucifer, He would bring redemption to mankind and judgment to the kingdom of darkness through the seed of woman.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; and He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heal” (Genesis 3:15 NKJV). Jesus Christ is that seed promised by the Father.
Pilate sentenced Jesus Christ to the flogging post, having no clue that every strap of the “cat of nine tales” that tore His back was purchasing healing for mankind (Isaiah 53:5).
As the Roman soldier drove the spikes into the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, he was unaware he was nailing the judgment written against the human race to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).
When the Roman soldiers raised the cross beam and attached it to the main upright beam, they and the religious council were completely unaware the sin and iniquity of every human being was being laid upon Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:6)
As Jesus Christ hung on the cross, He cried out, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?”
For the first time in all of eternity He experienced the abandonment of His Father because Jesus Christ, who had never known sin was made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2Corinthians 5:21).
When the Roman soldier pierced the dead body of Jesus Christ with the spear blood and water came gushing out, Jesus was declared dead.
The Roman soldiers and the religious leaders were oblivious to the fact, the conscience of every repentant sinner was being purged from dead works so they might serve the Living God because without the shedding of blood sin cannot be forgiven and removed (Hebrews 9:14, 22).
Neither the Roman governor nor the High Priest knew or understood the amazing consequences of their actions. Jesus Christ hanging on the cross was delivering mankind from the curse of sin, judgment, and the power of darkness.
It was bringing the blessings of Abraham and the promise of Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. (Galatians 3:13-14).
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was bruising the head of Lucifer and delivering mankind from the power of darkness and bringing them into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Genesis 3:15; Colossians 1:13-14).
The barbaric and inhumane cross and crucifixion became the source of deliverance and blessing to every person who would believe and embrace it.
All who look to the cross and believe Jesus Christ is God in the flesh paying the price for their sin will receive a new heart and a new life, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The power of the cross will never lose its power because Jesus Christ walked out of the grave on Sunday morning and lives eternally making the cross eternally efficacious.
That is why the cross is priceless.
That is why I wear a cross, every day. It is more than jewelry. It is more than being religious. It is the declaration that Jesus Christ has made me a new creation, with a new heart, a new life, and a new identity, through the power of the cross.