I wear a cross around my neck. My husband gave it to me 25 years ago, and I’ve worn it ever since. It is a beautiful piece of jewelry, but it is special to me because it is a cross. It doesn’t make me a better Christian or give me some sort of magical protection. It is my choice to be associated with what became the symbol of Jesus.

The earliest reference to crucifixion dates to the 400’s bc when a Persian general was crucified by the victorious Athenian army after defeat. But it is the Romans who made crucifixion common. It was designed to be a humiliating, torturous execution that could be public to deter any others who might be tempted to test the strength of the Roman government. This form of execution was intentionally demeaning and allowed passersby to heap scorn and derision on the suffering, dying man. Emperors would often line the street into a city with bodies hung on crosses; Nero even set them on fire to light the street.

Selfish, deceitful, evil people were threatened by the power of Jesus. And they should have been! He had the power to call down fire from heaven and take them out, but instead he chose to withhold his power and allow them to execute him. He willingly endured the agony and shame of the mock trial and beating and crucifixion because he wanted us to know that sin has a price….and he was willing to pay it for us. God made it clear to Abraham that sin required a blood sacrifice; Jesus provided it for all of humanity.

The contrast between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews and Rome during Holy Week is stark. . They wanted the acclaim their positions offered and sought to destroy anything that threatened it. The leaders chose to lie and murder to protect their jobs and their power. They used what little power they had to destroy what they feared. Jesus already had all power on heaven and on earth. He used that power to save what he loved. What Jesus wanted was for us, not to just avoid the punishment of hell, but to have fellowship with God, unhindered by the shame and consequences of our sin. He chose to become that blood sacrifice on Passover so that his people would be spared eternal death.

Crosses then were made from wood. Not polished beautiful wood, but rough hewn wood. Mine is made from gold. And in that comparison I find the symbol of the power of my Savior. His love changes what is intended for evil, something crude and shameful and ugly, and transforms it into the symbol of salvation. His cross became my redemption and my hope. His sacrifice is the ultimate symbol of intentional, sacrificial love. What began as humiliation and suffering became power over death and access to heaven, freely given by Jesus who used his power to redeem those he loves. There is no evil intent, no sin, no pain so great that it cannot be transformed into healing and power by the God who loves you, who has all authority in heaven and on earth. He can be trusted with the crude sin of your past and transform it into a brand new future. God redeemed the despair and horror of the crucifixion of Good Friday into the miracle and glory of Easter morning.

Be assured of his love for you. Seek his presence and forgiveness this Easter. Find a Christian community with whom you can worship the God who can redeem crosses and people and make them beautiful and holy.