At Cross Purposes

February 9, 2011

Regardless of faith perspective, in pondering the physical cross of Jesus Christ I find it laden with symbolism, offering keys or at least a few clues to a deeper understanding of its significance.

Of course, the Roman cross was nothing but a tortuous device of execution for common criminals. When considering that Jesus Christ was the very antithesis of criminal makes it all the starker a contrast.

Arms nailed open are a picture of the painful punctuation of our lifespan which begins and often ends in pain. We cannot nail ourselves to our own cross; we also get here through someone else’s choice. And even if we decide to exit on our own terms, how that ultimately plays out is still not in our hands.

The nexus of the cross where the horizontal beam meets the vertical represents the necessity of divine intervention, intersecting outstretched arms of surrender, of ‘hands off’ an attempt to save oneself or to prove oneself worthy.  The weightiness and breadth of the vertical earth-to-the sky beam is exponentially greater than the limited horizontal timeline of pain and difficulty.

This central interruption of the vertical beam points in a completely opposite direction from human limitation to something far greater: the incomprehensibly powerful love of God,  promising us that salvation is not man-made, and not based on our comparatively pitiful attempts at perfection, but is entirely dependent upon our accepting with arms wide open that Someone Else made a choice to pay the price for us to walk in true freedom, and to accomplish what we could never be capable of in our fallibility.

It is crucial to remember that Jesus was not hijacked; he chose the cross in a voluntary act of surrender for a higher purpose. No one took his life, he laid it down of his own accord.

There is not one trial or trouble we face that cannot be redemptive: we ceaselessly have the freedom to choose how we will respond to everything and anything that unpredictably comes our way.

We may not like what we have to go through to get to the other side; Jesus did not want to suffer any more than we do. But that does not take away from the victory that awaits us as we go all the way through the pain, allowing the lesser desire (to flee suffering) to die. Then, and only then, we resurrect as a renewed person, stronger for having gone through the rigors of whatever cross has been assigned to us.

We endure it, as Christ, for the joy set before us.