To listen to last week’s sermon click here.
We’ve been working through the book of John for almost a year now, and we are finally getting to the end, which means we are finally getting to the cross.
One of my main concerns in the sermons centering about the cross is that the cross would seem as shocking to us now as it did back then. We have to remember that the cross was a form of execution, the most brutal form known at the time. I’m not sure we’d get that from the way crosses are used in our Western culture. We have crosses hanging on our buildings, crosses hanging around our necks on gold chains. We have cross neck ties and cross earrings. They look pretty and elegant. It is easy for us to forget that the cross symbolizes suffering and death.
A few years ago I got a chance to explore the ruins of an old Arminian village in north east Turkey. If I remember correctly, the village dated back to 1,500 AD. It was a Christian village, which also enjoyed art. Pictures decorating the churches in this village were still intact. The pictures were the typical things you would expect to see in a church, with one notable exception: the shape of the cross. The crosses hanging in this village were an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles. It looked like the swastika—the symbol of the Nazi’s. The Nazis actually took their image from the ancient Christians (Sickening, isn’t it?). So in the midst of the pictures of saints and biblical characters was the symbol of hate, oppression and death. This “cross” was jarring and somewhat disturbing.
But, you see, that’s how it should be. The cross is the symbol of hate and death. The world hated Christ. But it wasn’t hatred alone that put him on the cross. It was also love. Christ loved His father and He loved all those who the Father had given Him. The cross is the symbol of hatred and evil, but used for the greatest good. The cross is evil turned in on itself. On the cross, Jesus takes human sin, suffering, and death, and destroys it. And He gives life to all who trust in Him.
So as we approach the Easter season, let’s not be too “comfortable” with the cross. Let’s remember that it is a symbol of ignoble suffering and shame. But let’s also remember that God used this for Christ’s glory and our good.
This coming Sunday we will, Lord willing, look at the rest of John 19. This is the account of Jesus’ death and burial. To prepare for the sermon, read over the passage and ask yourself, “Why is John giving us these specific details? And how does this fit with the overall message of the book?”