So Much More Than A Pretty Piece Of Jewelry

Like many Christian women, I wear a pendant shaped like a cross. It’s a pretty silver thing — slightly fanciful, but nothing ornate. Truth be told, it’s a bit bigger than it should be, making me look a bit like a nun. One of John’s Avon customers ordered it years ago, but decided she didn’t want it, so John offered it to me. I’ve worn it for several years because I like identifying myself as a Christian.

Cross shaped pendants really are pretty, don’t you think? That fact is sort of bizarre, considering that execution by crucifixion was one of the cruelest ways to put even the vilest criminal to death. Some critics of using it as jewelry argue that we might as well wear little gold and silver replicas of electric chairs around our necks. Grudgingly, I see their point. When I think about the gruesome realities of the crucifixion process, it does seem a bit barbaric to turn the cross into a fashion accessory.

In an article on the Learn Religion website, Marcy Fairchild explains The Definition of Crucifixion, an Ancient Method of Execution. If you’ve never read about the things crucifixion entails, her article outlines it delicately but accurately, so I’d strongly encourage you to take a minute to read through it before continuing with this post.

You can see the inhumanity of crucifixion in Ms. Fairchild’s post, and you probably wince at the thought that the sinless Lord endured such physical pain and degradation. Wincing is definitely an appropriate response to the barbaric execution of the One Who created the universe, I daresay! Never has there been a miscarriage of justice as extreme and unfounded! Jesus did nothing to deserve the death of a criminal, and even Pilate (who sentenced Him to death) knew it.

The physical torture Jesus endured was obviously horrendous, but it wasn’t unique to Him. In addition to His physical agony, which the two thieves hanging from crosses on either side of Him also underwent that afternoon, Jesus bore the weight of sin for every sinner who would believe in Him. During those three hours of total darkness, He received the full force of His Father’s wrath.

That suffering is unique to Jesus. Yes, those who die apart from Him will experience God’s wrath throughout eternity, but the difference between them and Jesus lies in the reality that He is the only Human Being Who never deserved God’s wrath. As terrible as the physical cross was, the terrors of being punished for the sins of countless believers must have been unbearable! I don’t think any of us, no matter how well grounded we are in Scripture, can even begin to imagine what He went through.

But He went through that unimaginable horror because the Father promised Him a people of His own. I don’t understand why He loves us, and I certainly don’t understand why He went through such great lengths to purchase our pardon, but the Bible explicitly says that He did it because the Father would reward Him with us.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~~Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB95)

Although I could write about the crucifixion from at least a dozen different angles without scratching the surface of its profound implications, my mind right now keeps returning to the clause, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Jesus knew, better than anyone, how vile the cross was, especially for Him. Just before His arrest, He prayed for any other way to atone for the sins of the elect (Luke 22:41). Precisely because Jesus (being God the Son) knew exactly what He would suffer on the cross, He demonstrated how powerfully He loves us.

Sometimes I let the world tell me that wearing this cross around my neck is ghoulish. When I think only of what execution by crucifixion entailed, the criticism indeed seems reasonable. But then I remember that the cross symbolizes how passionately Jesus loves me and how much He suffered in order to atone for my sins, and I can’t imagine not wearing it. To me, it’s far more than a piece of pretty jewelry — it’s a reminder of the Lord’s unexplainable love for me.

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