I am asking you to put yourself into the mind frame of anyone in the Roman world before the resurrection of Jesus and the writings of the first apostles. If we transported such a person into our timeframe and they saw crucifixes and crosses around our necks, on our books, and being used as decorations on and in buildings; what would be their first thoughts?
- Are these people marked to die?
- Is that a jail building where you are sent to wait?
- Can there be that many people working for Rome to kill people?
- There are countless variations of these questions.
One thing I am fairly certain of is they would only follow you if they wanted to see someone die a slow painful death.
Since Jesus’ death we had smoothed the cross out, lost the blood (for the most part), made it huge or much smaller, and made then shiny. Most of these actions can and will be defended.
Alright, back to my post. The Romans did not invent the idea of killing someone on a pole, they just perfected the practice. Ezra 6:11 and Esther 9:13 refer to people being “impaled on a pole” (NIV). The Romans added a cross piece and that extended the length of time it took for someone to die. If you said “cross” in Israel it was an evil thing and they took it as a curse.
Before you start thinking that I don’t like the cross in artwork or on a building, you are INCORRECT. It has served people as a point of meditation and comfort for a long time. I do have an issue if you make it a “good luck charm”.
Now, imagine people who are under Roman rule with Herod in charge of your nation being told “if you want to be my worthy disciple deny yourself and carry your cross as you follow Me”. (Matthew 10:38, 16:24) The Sermon on the Mount, yes. Healing sickness and disease, yes. Food for 5000 plus people, yes and yes. Carry my cross, not so much. To be made a public “spectacle” would be “foolish”, so why “endure its pain and shame”.
Yes, there is evil associated with those two pieces of wood. The leaders of the religious classes in Jerusalem made that clear in Matthew 27:42 with their challenge for Jesus to come off of the cross. Simon of Cyrene, probably, was not too happy with having to pick up Jesus’ cross – Matthew 16:24. (That statement is very subjective depending on who is preaching in the morning. His sons are mentioned later in the Book so good did come from it.) But, just like the Tree in the Garden, we know its evil side and its good side.
Hebrews 12:2 clearly speaks of Jesus knowing the cross carried shame. He went past that for the joy it would give when He could sit next to the Father again. In enduring the evil, He perfected our faith and disarmed the demonic powers by His triumph on the cross. (Colossians 2:15, Yes, I am mixing verses. I will reference them and I used the NIV.) As Peter witnesses to Cornelius in Acts 10 about what Jesus did and how the Jews hung Him on the cross; I can hear Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – When I was perishing the message that the cross was good was foolishness, but now it is the power of God in my life.
Exercise, sugar, and many other things in life have an evil side but also a good side. We know things like this because Eve wanted the fruit and Adam took a bite, thus getting knowledge.