“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
The cross! It is probably the most recognized, loved, and embattled symbol in the world. People wear it as jewelry, carry one in their pocket, put it on hilltops, decorate graves with it, even battle in court over it. A cross occasionally finds its way into a nativity scene and Christmas Eve sermons.
The cross is an all time favorite in Christmas hymnody and music. I was raised and nourished on old hymns like, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “At the Cross”, and “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross”. Today I’m learning new praise songs like, “Power of the Cross”, “The Wonderful Cross”, and “The Cross Has the Final Word”. People who love Jesus love the cross.
I often sit in church on Sunday and ponder the cross adorning the front of the sanctuary. In its two arms I see the union of opposites – above and below, vertical and horizontal, God and humanity reconciled. The vertical relationship is united, and horizontal relationships joined together.
But how is it that the cross reconciles us to God? Theologians have studied this, written volumes on it, and debated it – sometimes fiercely. Churches and denominations have even parted over different theories about how through the cross God reconciles us to Himself. That reminds me of when I asked my dad how a light bulb works; how is it that I flip on the switch and the light goes on? He gave a word to me, calling it electricity; but that did not mean I understood it. Later I learned that even the world’s greatest scientists could not understand or explain how electricity works. How much more, then, to understand or explain the reconciling power of the cross!
Whatever name, theory, or explanation we give to it, the cross will always be beyond our comprehension. But yet, daily we get to live in its power. The youngest child coming to Jesus knows as much about the cross as any theologian.
The Bible tells us the cross is the revelation of “the power of God and the wisdom of God” for any who believe (1 Corinthians 1:24). The cross spans the gulf between God and humanity by “erasing the record that stood against us…nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). God breaks down the barrier between Jew and Gentile by reconciling “both groups to God in one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:16). And yes, God even reconciles the cosmos to himself “by making peace through the blood of the cross” (Colossians 1:20).
If you go to the Palatine Hill Museum in Rome you can see the “Graffito Blasphemo”. It is perhaps the earliest depiction of Jesus. The Graffito was found scratched in plaster on the wall of the boarding school for Caesar’s imperial pageboys. The Graffito shows the image of a young man worshipping a man with a donkey’s head nailed to a cross. The Graffito artist etched alongside the image in the Greek language, the words: ALEXAMENOS WORSHIPS HIS GOD. The Graffito was meant to mock a young pageboy for worshipping the crucified Lord. Significantly, in the next chamber of the Palatine Museum, there is another inscription etched by another hand in Latin: ALEXAMENOS IS FAITHFUL.
In the ancient world as well as in the post-modern world, the cross of Christ is a “stumbling block” and “foolishness” to many (1 Corinthians 1:23). Yet, in the face of that, we know that God is putting right the world through the blood of the cross.
I want to be counted with Alexamenos!
- Accepting that it is impossible to fully understand or explain the inexhaustible power of the cross, what does the cross of Christ mean to you? Take a few moments to talk with Christ about this.