“…and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Eph 2:16
Christ was put to death on the cross, and by the act of his death he put death to death.
“One short sleep past, we wake eternally and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.” John Donne declared victory in the face of death in one of his holy sonnets. When Black Death was taking lives from all over the city of London and the smell of death permeated every alley and street, Donne wasn’t threatened by it at all, and even after he himself was confined to a sick room when he was diagnosed for possibly having the plague and his earthly days seemed to have been numbered, the Dean of Saint Paul still held onto her faith, believing that death was defeated long ago on the hill of Calvary. Indeed, “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
Death is inevitable, yet it’s something we avoid talking about, as if it will never occur to us and, even if it finally does, we are still pretty much caught by surprise. We will not win the war against our mortal enemy unless we look him in the face and know who he really is. The Lord Jesus knew exactly what he was going to face and constantly reminded his disciples what was going to transpire when they arrived at the Holy City, yet the followers simply brushed it aside, thinking it was a bad omen to even mention the cross. To them, their Master was about to become a great victor, not a helpless victim, and the mentioning of the cross was an anathema to them.
How did two piece of crossed wood employed by the ruthless Romans to put people to death in the most horrific manner ever turn into a sign of glory and a symbol of love and mercy? It would never have happened had the Son of God not been crucified on it. Surely thousands of war criminals and thugs had been sentenced to death on the cross, yet it made absolutely no difference to the world, for they all died for their own sins; yet it only took one man’s death on the cross for other people’s sins to change the cursed tree into a sign of glory. Whether we are Christians or not, the appearance of the cross in any shape or form conjures up a feeling of warmth and comfort, causing us to feel hopeful in the midst of the many woes of this world.
I have always loved the cross, even during the time when I had no earthly idea what it stood for. The village idols my family worshipped, which were adorned with gold plate and colorful ribbons, often evoked within me a feeling of strangeness and fear, even though they were considered our protectors. I knew by instinct even then, unlike the symbol of the cross, that they were something sinister and dark, harboring ill intention toward the ones who bowed down to them.