The first-century church was an underground church. It existed in a time when Christians were being persecuted and martyred for their faith. Some were arrested, beaten and thrown in jail. Others were stoned to death. So, it was common for these believers to meet together in their homes, secretly. In ancient Jerusalem there was no such thing as a public church with a big cross on the roof. That would be a strange sight. Two thousand years ago, Israel was in Roman occupied territory. And the cross was a Roman device used to kill criminals.
It was the Romans who used crosses to punish and execute criminals that had been sentenced to death. It was a very slow, painful and public death. Crucifixion also provided a means to intimidate the population and keep radicals in line. Crucifixion was the preferred method of execution for political prisoners and religious agitators. It was also reserved for thieves and anyone the Roman Empire wanted to make an example out of. It could be used as a way to discourage others from following such a person.
Now, 2,000 years later, this symbol is recognized around the world. The cross represents faith in Jesus Christ and what he accomplished through his crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. Its symbology and meaning for those who would follow Jesus goes even deeper. There are scriptures that talk about being crucified with Christ. As a Christian you are commanded to carry your cross daily. This kind of crucifixion is not physical but spiritual. Crucifying your flesh (sinful nature) involves suffering by doing what the Lord says because you’re not getting your own way. In other words, you obey the Bible even when you don’t feel like it. This is what it means to carry your cross. This is Christianity.
Here’s how Jesus explained it…
Then he [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38 NIV)
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