What does the cross symbolize to you? That’s Jesus, right? God’s redemption on display as Jesus stretched out his arms and died for you and I. The cross represents the most important and valuable thing that has ever been done for us. So, we wear a cross around our neck. We hang a cross on our wall. We post a cross in sacred places. Our cross represents faith, it represents salvation, it represents hope.
But did you know the cross was originally anything but a symbol of hope. A cross was a disgrace. It was the punishment for a criminal to hang in shame for the public to see. A cross was a reminder of guilt. A representation of cruelty in response to wrongdoing. Crucifixions happened along the main road of a town so that it was a public spectacle. People would gather to watch the sinner die a cruel and agonizing death as payment for their transgression. A cross meant the deserving of a shameful end.
Luke 23: 32-33 “Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Jesus. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.”
Crucifixion on a cross was painful on purpose. It was a total humiliation of hanging in shame, powerless to help yourself. This is what a cross was. This is what Jesus was nailed to, between two criminals facing their public punishment. And the location was called The Skull. Think for a minute how scary that is. Haunting. The Skull. It was a mountain shaped like a skeleton. A place countless others had been lead to their agonizing death, hanging on a cross.
Do you honestly think a single person would then want to put a cross around their neck as a reminder of punishment? No one hung a cross in their home, because that cross was a threat of punishment if they messed up, they too would end up hanging there, dying in shame for all to see.
But Jesus changed all of that. Because of Jesus’ death on a cross, what was once shameful and embarrassing, is now our symbol of greatest hope. The cross means we are forgiven. The cross means we are covered. The cross means we have a future that is far greater than our minds can possibly imagine. The cross means we are chosen. The cross is our sweet Jesus giving every single thing for us. The cross means we are redeemed.
And that place where Jesus hung on the cross, The Skull. That now reminds us Jesus has declared reign of your skull, meaning your mind and your thoughts. He has not only staked his claim on your soul’s salvation, but he has bought the rights to your mental health! Oh girl, maybe you need to remember that! Jesus has claimed your mental health! His blood was shed on that cross at The Skull, paying the price for your mind to be set free! Declare that and receive it!
Redemption. That’s what Jesus does. He takes what was once full of shame and disgrace, and he turns it into hope and power. And just as he turned the symbol of the cross into something radically different, he takes what has created shame within us and he turns it into hope. He takes what once disgraced us and he fills it with power to do mighty things for his glory.
You know who I most love to hang out with? The person who knows how big their sin was. The person who hit rock bottom and had absolutely nothing left, until Jesus picked them up. This is the person who beautifully represents redemption. A person who God can use to reach the hardest of people in the darkest of places. A person whose cracks allow the light of Jesus to shine through so perfectly.
Now, with the shame of their past stripped from them, and the grace of God covering them, their life is a radically different symbol than it used to be. Just like the cross that was once a symbol of guilt and shame, and now because of Jesus it is a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice which fills us with hope, the same is true of a life redeemed by Jesus.
We no longer represent our past sin. We no longer bare the reminders of our failures and shortcomings. We aren’t condemned. We aren’t hanging in punishment for all to see. We don’t have to walk in guilt or shame. Jesus has changed all of that. Now, we are the most beautiful picture of redemption. A life changed.
A cross is no longer the end, it is the beginning. It is our intersection with God’s redeeming love that turns our mess into his message. A message of forgiveness. A message of healing. A message of purpose. And that message is what we’re here to live.
God has brought us here to show others what a difference he makes. How he changes everything. How not a single soul is too far gone. Not a single addiction is out of his reach. Not a single mistake is greater than his grace. How nothing will be wasted and all will be used for good in the hands of God.
If God could use the symbol of a shameful and cruel cross to become a symbol of eternal hope and security, I’m pretty darn sure he can use all of my shame and all of my guilt for something useful. And he can use yours too. He can use your past for a purpose. He can use your hurt for greater healing. He can use your past sin to set others free now.
Jesus changes everything! There’s no shame in needing him to change some things for you. Receive everything he has for you here and allow your life to look totally different through his power! Jesus forever changed the cross, and he will forever change anything shameful in your life, if you let him!
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