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Why is the Cross So Important to Christians?

I had the good or ill fortune, depending on your opinion and perspective, of growing up in a family which attended church every week. My family of origin is very religious and thus I grew up attending every service which my home church offered. During Holy Week we would attend the Good Friday service, the Sunrise Service and Easter Service on Easter Sunday.

I am not a morning person, but one of my favorite childhood memories was waking up early on Easter Sunday, seeing the sunrise, and hustling to church for the Sunrise Service. Easter Sunday always felt like an incredible celebration of life even as we celebrated Jesus coming to life.

This was my childhood. All of my memories include knowing the story of the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The cross has always been a symbol of life and hope to me.

Since becoming the pastor of Bryn Mawr I have been trying to challenge myself to see my Christian faith and religion from the eyes of those people who did not grow up in a very religious and Christian faith-centered family like myself.

One of the questions I have heard others ask is why such an awful symbol of death like the cross is the central symbol for the Christian faith.

The story of Jesus coming from heaven to earth is filled with irony. The Son of God born in an animal feeding trough grew up to become the great teacher we read about in the gospels. He performed amazing miracle after miracle from turning water into wine to restoring the sight to the blind to even raising the dead back to life.

This man who offered life to so many was eventually put on trial and murdered by the most gruesome of methods, crucifixion. This man who is the center of the Christian faith, because he declared that he came to fulfill the ancient Hebrew prophecies which told of the coming messiah or savior. This man, Jesus, was crucified between two common thieves because the religious leaders believed him to be a threat to their power and influence and frankly they were right.

He was a threat to their power and influence because Jesus reminded everyone that it was more important to love God and to love our neighbors than to seek power and glory.

That is why the cross is the central figure of our faith. It reminds us that we do not serve our own selfish desires, rather we live to love our God and to serve the needs of others ahead of ourselves. We are reminded every time we see the empty cross of the hope and new life offered to us if we will willingly give up our vain ambitions. That is why I see hope and glory by the sight of the cross. Thanks be to God!

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