Crucifixion: A Brief Historical Introduction (Part 6)
We have seen that crucifixion, in spite of popular assumptions, was not an invention of the Roman Empire. Yet, ironically, this form of torture/execution is forever linked with the Romans. It was Rome that time after time used the cross to instill fear in the heart of its subject nations.
Christians should now be quite aware of how â€œtabooâ€ this emblem was. Actually, the cross was not a symbol for Christianity until roughly around the time of the protestant Reformation. At its inception, Christians were indeed confessing that God brought about redemption by way of a suffering servant. But the ultimate demonstration of the suffering was no mere flogging (though, of course, this was severe indeed), but by means of enduring the wrath of God himself. How did they come to know this? Scripture, though the Law-giver Moses, clearly informed them that hanging upon a tree was a sign that God’s wrath was being poured out.
The Jewish people also find significance in the cross, for while many Jews have rejected Christ as the divine Messiah, many crossed its path once too often. Under the rule of Roman authorities many Jew suffered this cruel fate. Christians should take this into account when evangelizing people of Jewish decent. While we do not want to water down the offense of the cross, we also do not want to place an unnecessary roadblock to dialogue.
Many Jews do not see the love of God revealed and the wrath of God satisfied in the symbol of the cross as Christians do. Unfortunately this symbol, so precious to the Christian, can bring many painful memories of the persecution to the Jewish people by those who thought the were advancing the cause of “Christianity.”