The cross of Christ is a powerfully controversial symbol. Iraq’s Al-Quaeda branch, the Mujahideen Shura Council, threatens the “worshippers of the cross” by proclaiming, “We shall break the cross…and slit their throats.” This intriguing symbol of bloody torture and execution has become the most renown icon in the history of the world.
In the days of the early Christian father Tertullian, Christians began to make the sign of the cross across their bodies with their hands. Crosses were worn as necklaces and decorated homes to remember the brutal death of Jesus. In our day, this would be akin to an AIDS-infected drug needle or used condom become the world’s most beloved symbol and adorning homes, churches and bodies. American satirist Lenny Bruce once quipped, “if Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.
The scandal of the cross is based around the gospel, or the atoning death (being punished and killed for humankind) of Jesus. Many opinions of the crucifixion have been espoused throughout history:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “If Socrates lived and died like philosopher, Jesus lived and died like a god.”
Gandhi: “His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept.”
Mark Twain: “Jesus died to save men—a small thing for an immortal to do—and didn’t save many, anyway. But if he had been damned for the race, that woulod have been (an) act of a size peoper to a god, and would have saved the whole race.”
John Knox: To remember Jesus is to remember first of all his Cross.”
Fredrich Nietzche: “Jesus died too soon. If he had lived in my age he would have repudiated his doctrine.”
An 1892 United States Supreme Court decision declared “Jesus the redeemer of mankind.”
Puritan John Owen: “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”
The medieval motto of the Carthusian Order was “the world is my crucifix.”
Martin Luther King Jr.: “In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness.”
How can Christians celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus as good news, the best news ever heard? Here are some selected verses from the New Living Translation of the Bible:
“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Is. 53:5)
“He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” Romans 4:25
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8
“Christ died for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18
“He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:2
“But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:13
“To be a Christian is to be a ‘little Christ.’ In fact, the name Christian was originally a term of mockery given to us by our enemies. But Jesus said that to be a Christian is to pick up our cross and die. Die to sin, die to pride, die to comfort, die to anything and everything that fails to glorify God alone as the object of our affection and the source of our joy. With great insight, Walter Wink has said that killing Jesus was like ‘trying to destroy a dandelion seed-head by blowing on it.’ At the cross, what was intended as eradication was used by God for multiplication, and we pray you would always be loyal to Jesus, our hero, and his revolution.”
Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2007, pp. 11, 112, 120.