This is an online version of my column for the 19 April 2023 edition of the Billericay & Wickford Gazette.
It’s amazing how many people wear a cross as a necklace or an earring and yet have little, or no, Christian faith. The cross was first worn by early Christians to show they were followers of Jesus and to remind them of His death and the sacrifice He made the cross on their behalf. We’ve become so accustomed to crosses worn as jewellery that we are not shocked by the fact that it was an instrument of execution! I know! Take a deep breath – but that’s exactly what a cross is.
Cicero, the Roman philosopher and politician, described crucifixion as: ‘The most cruel and hideous of tortures’. Indeed, it was one of the cruellest forms of execution known to mankind. It was abolished in 315 AD because even the Romans considered it too inhumane.
I wonder how you’d respond if Pandora started producing electric chair earrings, or lethal injection cufflinks, or a hangman’s noose necklace? Would you wear one of those? I guess not … and I bet you wouldn’t be best pleased to receive one as a gift either.
But why it is that the cross is a symbol of the Christian faith? Why isn’t it a cradle to remind us about the much-loved Christmas story? Or a scroll to remind us of Jesus’ amazing teaching? Or a crown, to remind us of Jesus’ claim to be a King? No – it’s a cross, to remind us of His death. Whilst many people may want to remember Jesus’ life, the Christian remembers His death. The cross reminds us why Jesus died. The hymn writer Isaac Watts puts it this way:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of Nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
The cross is only wondrous, of course, if Jesus rose from the dead – but that’s what Christian’s believe and what we celebrated across the world a couple of weeks ago. The writer and Atheist, Richard Dawkins, wrote: “If the resurrection is not true Christianity becomes null and void.” And for once I agree with him! Jesus’ death on the cross only makes sense if He rose from the dead and that’s why Easter is such a significant celebration in the Christian Church and why following Jesus is life changing for those who do because it means He was able to deliver on all the promises He made during his life.
Easter Sunday is the story of the ultimate triumph over evil, as God demonstrates his victory over death, the curse of this world, through the cross. It’s the ultimate story of love and forgiveness. And the resurrection isn’t just a story that sits 2,000 years ago, it has meaning and hope for us today that can radically change the way we live our lives, transform the darkest of situations and heal even the most broken of hearts. But don’t just take my word for it!
May God’s richest blessing be upon you and those you love.
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COLUMN: Billericay Reverend’s World Cup prayer for England
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COLUMN: Billericay Reverent pays tribute to the Queen
COLUMN: Billericay Reverend thanks our local farmers
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