Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Significance of the Cross at Easter

The shed blood of Jesus Christ, our Savior is a wonderful gift to humanity to pay for our imperfection before a holy and righteous God who is intolerant of sin. So intolerant that He does condemn those who reject His gift to eternal separation from Him~a place many wince over and may deny called hell.

The great news of Easter is that Jesus made it possible by His substitute death on that Roman cross for me, you, all of the people of the world to receive His offer to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."

In the previous post concerning the significance of the blood at Easter, I discussed just why a blood sacrifice was necessary for the plan of salvation, for the forgiveness of sin. It couldn't be just any blood either, but the most perfect lamb during Old Testament practices, and the precious blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world as John the Baptist called Jesus when he first sees Christ and introduces Him to his own followers. But why a Roman cross? Does this lay at the feet of why Jesus died or who killed Him?

In recent years, there have been those who have blamed various people groups for the death of Jesus Christ in ways that have created horror and shame to those who most unbecomingly have behaved. Particularly I am thinking of the Holocaust where literally millions upon millions of Jews and Jewish sympathizers were killed because somewhat in relationship to their historic part in the death of Christ. It was a Jew, Judas Iscariot who betrayed our Lord and religious leaders who took Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor for execution with the accusation of blasphemy for claiming to be "king of the Jews" and God. These claims were not tolerated like they might be today as often people who are ill or misguided will in some warp of mind claim to be Jesus Christ as Charles Manson has done or a man I once met who claimed to be "the messiah to witches." Now both of these are stories in themselves, but no one is executing either of these for claiming such as would have the religious of that day...Jesus was brought before Pilate by His accusers.

It's interesting that Pilate found no fault with Him. No fault and no real reason to condemn Him, but because he could see the political problems and possibility of revolt, he had to do something. But as conflicted as Pilate was as evidenced by the washing of his hands to cleanse them of the blood of the Innocent, he allowed Jesus to be traded for the murderer, Barabbas and crucified.

Crucifixion was a common form of capital punishment in Roman times. There were many forms of cruel punishment for the criminal including removal of limbs, eyes, tongue or whatever "offending" body part if one was found guilty along with prison and beheading. The Roman Empire of occupation was a violent society. In order to remain in power, the organization of government ruled with violence, and the Caesar was revered as a god~remember that religious tolerance was practiced because of the polytheistic practices of the Roman people. The Roman gods were human like in their nature,but held supernatural powers. In reading a good article about the usefulness of studying Greek and Roman mythology which are the tales of their gods, the writer says that even the Romans did not believe all of the myths, but allowed them as explanations for the events of nature and circumstance. You can read it: .

Since violence was common place and the territory of the Roman Empire vast, laws were obeyed generally with few rebellions by dissenters. Remember that Rome occupied most of the known world. From the shores of England to well beyond India into Asia towards China the Empire was divided into provinces with governors who worked to control and order the people of those areas under the authority of the Caesar with the Roman soldier and army as enforcement. It was harsh and not a good idea to come into contrast or dissent with Rome.

When the religious brought Jesus before Pilate, circumstances went against Jesus' case as it was not only the leaders who made accusations, but when the choice was given to the people to release Him or the criminal, the people cried, "Give us Barabbas!" No Roman governor wanted an uprising or mob scene to erupt. His fate humanly speaking was taking full hold. Jesus was condemned to death.

As the most terrible form of capitol punishment it was reserved for the most violent offenders, slaves, captives, and treason along with other methods.(Fairchild, Mary The Roman cross was wood with an upright vertically and with a horizontal piece that held the arms and legs of the accused. The crimes would be listed above the person on a sign, such as was done when the sign over Jesus read, "king of the Jews." After extreme torture, the victim would be made to carry his own cross in humiliation through the streets to the place where the attaching by nailing or tying limbs upon the cross would occur. Sometimes there would also be a footrest or seat to hold the criminal so that the death was more prolonged but with less agony. If no foot or seat area and the body only hanging by the nailed limbs, death was agonizing as suffocation, dislocation, brain death and heart failure occurred. If death didn't come quickly enough as an act of mercy the legs were broken or the side pierced. In Jesus' execution, He was hung without rests, and his side was pierced. His death did not take days but hours, some evidence that no rest was present.

As gruesome as this form of punishment, the cross itself has become a symbol of salvation for believers. Because of Jesus' death and suffering, the cross is worn as an icon of faith and belief.

Jesus was crucified because it was the worst punishment the known world offered. It fulfills Isaiah's prophecy "Isaiah 53

1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

The cross is part of Easter as the vehicle by which the Lord died. It's role was that of holding upright towards God the Savior who would bare the sin of the entire human race. No wonder He cried, "My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me?" as God unable to view sin placed upon Jesus, rejected Him. Never before had Jesus experienced separation from the Father.

As a Christian, the cross holds significance to me because it totally symbolizes the love of our Suffering Savior.

This Easter let's be thankful for the cross of Calvary; it's a reminder of the price paid to bring us to God.

Happy Easter Celebration!
In Him
Lady Graceful
Phil 1:6

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