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The cross

For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross… The wisdom we speak of is the secret wisdom of God, which was hidden in former times, though he made it for our benefit before the world began. — 1 Corinthians 2:27

The Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, is made up of the flags of England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland superimposed on each other. Each of these flags represents the country’s patron saint—George of England, Patrick of Ireland, and Andrew of Scotland. Each saint is represented by a cross.

The cross has become a well-known symbol often pictured on flags, incorporated into church architecture, or simply worn as a piece of jewelry. But its original significance is largely overlooked, which is not surprising when we remember what the cross was.

During the days of the Roman Empire, the cross was a means of execution so torturous, vile, and cruel that no Roman citizen could ever be crucified. It is remarkable that such a horrendous instrument of torture could become such a precious symbol to so many. But how?

The answer is to be found not in the cross itself, but in a particular execution—that of a humble young craftsman, Jesus of Nazareth, whose bold preaching challenged the religious status quo in Jerusalem almost two millennia ago. But even His crucifixion does not account for the widespread respect for crosses, until we remember that the underlying reason for the religious establishment’s antipathy toward Him was that He claimed to be God. His claims took on undeniable force when His tomb became empty, His body disappeared, and many people reported seeing Him risen from the dead.

The disciples of Jesus, who originally deserted Him during the terrifying hours of His arrest, trial, and execution, were remarkably transformed after the reported sightings. They began to preach loudly and clearly that Jesus was the promised Messiah, that He had died for the sins of the world, had risen again, and was triumphant over sin, death, and hell. This dramatic message spread throughout the Roman Empire.

The apostle Paul, whose activities were significant for the spread of this message, said that his task was to “concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul said that, if those who killed Jesus had understood what they were doing, “they would never have crucified our glorious Lord” (2:8). Although they did not know it, one of “God’s deep secrets” (2:10) was becoming a reality. For it was at the cross that Jesus died for all men’s sins and made forgiveness and eternal life available to all who believe.

The secret is no longer hidden. The word is out, and today many people see beyond the symbolism to the significance of the cross. They, having been forgiven, love Him, and serve Him. They rightly revere the cross and the one about whom it speaks.

For further study: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.