The Cross: What an Odd Symbol

We sing the praise of him who died, Of him who died upon the cross; The sinner’s hope let men deride; For this we count the world but loss.


for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18 –


When I say bald eagle, what immediately comes to your mind? The USA of course.
What about when you see an interlocking U and K? You got it. A smile on the side of a package or truck? Sure…Amazon.

A cross – Christianity. But what an odd way to brand a movement. A horrific symbol of death. Foolish.

Crucifixion was saved for the worst of the worst to not only be an execution but an example. Established by barbarians on the fringes of society and co-opted by the Romans and Greeks as tools to quell opposition. It was meant to inflict maximum torture before a gruesome death. It was meant to convey to any potential enemies…don’t make waves or this will be you too!

Cicero, one of the Roman rulers, said that “to bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder, to crucify him? What? There is no fitting word that can describe so horrible a deed.”
To the Jews crucifixion was equal to hanging on a tree. A lynching in our day’s vernacular. And those who hang upon a tree Deu. 21:23 says that those are under the curse of God. A cursed Messiah? Foolish.

If it were me, I would have considered an ark…that would be a nice branding symbol. Or a fish for the fishers of men statement by Jesus to his disciples. Or a tree like in Psalm 1 planted by a stream never loses its leaves and having fruit in all season. What about a grape for Jesus said he was the vine and we were the branches which would produce fruit if we stayed close. A stone? For the stone that was rolled from Jesus and Lazarus’ grave. What about a church building to signify people in worship? I mean come on, we could come up with something more uplifting and more marketable without trying too hard. A cross? Foolish.

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died. My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride

Jesus’ entire life casts a shadow toward his death on the cross. He says it (Mark 9:31). He shows it in his deeds. He even demands it of his followers by saying, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” But they refused to believe…and we follow in their unbelief that death on a cross can bring hope for this life and the one to come. But it did, and it does.

for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18 –

Lent is a journey to Easter. A season of preparation for those of faith. All journeys to Easter must follow Jesus’ original journey to Easter which took him to, not around, the cross. For this season we seek to understand more fully and love more deeply our Lord and Savior and this is not possible without embracing his cross. It is not pleasant but it neither is it negotiable.

Anglican scholar Bishop Stephen Neill correctly asserts that, “the death of Christ is the central point of history; here all the roads of the past converge (come together); hence all the roads of the future diverges (begin).”

Now, I call us as a congregation to prepare ourselves for this journey through the cross to Easter. If we offer ourselves in the example of self-sacrifice given to us by Jesus on the cross, we too will experience the very salvation of God.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God. All vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Published by Todd Nelson

I'm one of the pastors at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky where I've served for the past thirteen years. The sub-title of this blog is "Grace is no accident" which happens to be the defining reality of my life. God's grace (gift) is the reason we have breath in our lungs and hope in our hearts.

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