The cross is a symbol of freedom from sin. It stands for a whole belief system that God Himself loved us so much that He would do such a thing. But there is more to the cross than just the beams of wood. With running the risk of taking away the sentimentality, we have placed too much emphasis on the cross as a whole, for the cross was just the vessel of His actions. We wear it around our necks and hang one in our houses to show we are Christians and that we believe He died on a cross for our sins. But in reality the cross should not be used as a symbol of the death that Jesus had but as a symbol of the freedom of man that Jesus gave to us. The cross today is empty just as the tomb is. Is there something else about the crucifixion that we need to look at and understand? Perhaps.
Some artists works show the crucifixion with all three "criminals" being tied to the cross. But those would not be accurate. The Roman way of crucifying would not have been that forgiving as just being tied up would be. Tying someone to a piece of wood with rope may have taken a long time to die but would not have been as painful. Rope can be cut too easily and so forth. Rope may burn but if you could stay in the same place you wouldn't feel it that much. Rope would keep you in place, thereby giving you time to relax. No, it took nails to put someone on a cross. Nails that were as a thick as tent pegs going through nerves in your hands and feet that were more painful than going through any other part of your body. The actual placement of the nails in the hands would not be in the palms. The weight of your own body would tear the hands away from the nails. The nails would have gone through the wrists where your hands meet your forearms. The nerve ending there would be so sensitive causing more pain than you can imagine. People who suffer from carpal tunnel don't even know the half of it but can at least start to appreciate the pain. The point is being crucified was not something that people could live through or want to live through. It is painful. To have one nail go through your nerves would be too much for someone to think that they could get through it. But yet one nail is not strong enough to keep the body on the cross. Jesus was not crucified with only one nail. He wasn't crucified with two nails. He had three.
But what does it mean when Jesus told us, His followers, to take up our cross? Consider Matthew 16:24-25:
- Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
- For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Most people think it means that we have to take on burdens of this life. We have to be good witnesses. If persecuted, we laugh in glory. If hurt, we turn the other cheek and pray for those who hurt us. When called on to give testimony we are supposed to be ready for answers. But there is more to it than just these things.
When you follow Christ you have to be willing to lose your own life. That just doesn't mean dying physically. Losing your life is about placing others before yourself, making a sacrifice that may not be easy (hence that is what a sacrifice is). It means to become totally crucified and not tod things half way.
Sometimes people when they follow Christ only get crucified with one nail. And when that one nail gets too painful they pull the nail out themselves and they fall away from the cross. WHen they remember their walk with Christ all they can remember is the pain. Some even go as far as getting the second nail but waste away on the cross without much produce. They just hang there taking the pain and never fully understand that it takes a little more. They feel that they have done what they were supposed to do and wonder why they feel the pain without any healing. But to fully follow Christ we need to have all three nails. We need to go through whatever we need to go through to see the glory of God. To be resurrected with Him we need to go through death. One nail hurts. Two nails makes us waste away. Three nails kill us. But thanks be to God above with the blood of Christ we are resurrected and death can not touch us.