What is so significant about the cross? The typical response would have something to do about the death of Jesus. However, if we were to be more detailed we may say that its not just the death of Jesus but the fact that Jesus reigned victorious over death by defeating sin and raising again on the third day. So, the cross has become an object for many that is a sign of the victory of Christ in a particular point in history. Our culture has embraced the cross as a symbol that can sell on t-shirts, in the form of jewelry, and other retail objects.
What if we are missing the point or purpose of the cross? What if our view of the cross is short sighted in both width and depth? What if we are asking all the wrong questions about the cross? So, I want to pose a different questions:
What is the purpose of the cross? When I think about the cross here are three things that come to mind:
A Paradoxical Symbol of Victory:
First, the cross is everything that was said prior. It is a symbol that is associated with the death, resurrection, and ultimate victory of Jesus. However, that symbol would have been a paradox for the first century church. The cross as a symbol would have been one of destruction, despair, and devastation. It would have nothing to do with victory. It was reserved by the Romans for traitors, those that were in rebellion to the Roman government, and the worst of criminals. For every intent and purpose the cross should have been the ultimate symbol of defeat. Jesus, reverses that and turns it into a symbol of victory. In the same way the LORD uses the weak things of this world to show his might, in this instance he uses what was the most corrupt and powerful symbol of fear and terror to show His might and power. The cross has now become a sign of victory.
It Points Us To The Past:
The cross is also more than just a symbol of victory, it is a reminder of history past and the future that is to come. In his excellent book, “The Day the Revolution Began” N.T Wright comments:
“The purpose of the cross is to take us back from where we presently are”
Here, N.T Wright is speaking about the vocation of man, delighting in worship of God. Wright helps us to see that the cross points us back to the beginning, the first vocation that God gave Adam and Eve. Being image bearers and representing Him in all of creation to work according to His purposes for them. The cross in a sense, should serve to point us back to this very first vocation or purpose. To be a people of God who are image bearers of the uncreated God. To do the work of God as was first given to us and to live in union with Him. As we look back we must also see our story. The story of the fall, the need for rescue, rescue fulfilled (Jesus on the cross) and therefore the future promise to come.
It Points Us to the Future:
If the cross points us back, it also serves as a promise of the future reality to come. In the same way the Israelites waited in anticipation for the rescue that would come in the person of Jesus, we are in a similar waiting pattern. This time, Jesus will come back not as a suffering servant; but the victorious High King. The future that we are promised is a restoration of the past that was lost. What was lost? The presence and union with God. In the future that is to come we will return back to the glorious design that God intended from the very beginning. Namely, that God would be our present King and that we would live as image bearers of the King to do the good works that he appoints to us.
The cross is simultaneously complex and simple. It serves as an anchor that points us to the past and gives us hope for the future. It serves as a symbol of victorious reversal. The cross, once so hated and feared is now a symbol that brings hope.