Written by Dave Lenehan
When you drive on Interstate 81 South from PA, MD or WVA into VA, you’ll likely see two significant roadside crosses. The first is a giant truss cross at Open Door Baptist Church in Clear Brook, VA that is best seen at night as it’s lit with all sorts of amazing colors (maybe a future EP employee?). The second is a set of three wooden crosses further down 81 near Strasburg, VA in the Shenandoah Valley. As you’re zipping by at 70 mph, it’s easy to miss them, but they do stand out from the trees and fields along the side of the highway.
When my son Joshua and I were driving back to Lynchburg from the Albany, NY area Christmas weekend, Josh noticed the Strasburg crosses. He commented to me, “why do we have a symbol of death on the side of the road? It’s like we’re celebrating death.” And he was right. Those giant crosses on the side of the road, if given a more modern spin, could be replaced by a marble electric chair or statues of a firing squad. On the surface, that just wouldn’t make sense.
If you’ve done any studying at all of this horrific torture and death device used by the Roman Empire (and many others since), you know how brutal crucifixion was. All we need to do is read about Jesus’ death in any of the gospel accounts in the New Testament. Death on a cross came very slowly with extreme agony. The cross was reserved for criminals or sometimes political opponents of the Roman regime. It was not meant for a King like Jesus.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:17-18, ESV)
As followers of Jesus, we know that His sacrifice by death on a cross was the only way, the ultimate way that He paid the price (the wages, literally) for our sin. So, from that perspective, we understand why the cross is such an important symbol. It is foolishness to those who don’t know Him, but for believers, it is “the power of God.” But wait, there’s more.
Jesus often flips things around. There’s probably no place where He does this more clearly than with the cross. He took a symbol of horrible death and flipped it to make it a symbol of love and life everlasting. He took the pain and suffering of the cross and turned into hope, grace, forgiveness and peace. It was so that He “might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:16, ESV). The apostle Paul points out:
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14, ESV) and that in the cross, Jesus was “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14, ESV).
I don’t know what goes through your mind when you see a cross. I pray that not only do you take a moment to thank Jesus for redeeming you through His death but also for redeeming the cross itself into a symbol of restoring relationship with God for anyone who asks.