By Kate Ritchie
If you had lived in the time of Jesus, you would have felt the power of Rome. From Portugal to Palestine and Great Britain to Egypt in Africa, the Roman Empire ruled supreme and is still one of the most influential empires in the history of the world.
The Roman Empire was known for its power, armies, and military might. The Romans gained control through the sword, and their armies conquered much of the known world and brought it under their command. The Roman Empire was ruthless, cruel, and violent.
The cross was a billboard for the power of Rome. Crosses towered outside cities sending a message for those who came in and out. It was an advertisement for what happened to those who betrayed the Empire. Citizens of the empire were to have no king but Caesar.
The cross was a brutal way to die, and most often, it was the traitors who betrayed the Empire of Rome that died on the cross. This is why Jesus's enemies accused him of claiming to be the "King of the Jews." The enemies of Jesus knew that calling Jesus the "King of the Jews" would get Rome's attention. They had Jesus arrested by under false claims that he planned to make himself King of the Jews, and he was brought before Pilate. But when questioned about his accusers' claim, Jesus responded, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn. 18).
Hours before Jesus was hung on the cross, Jesus stood before Pilate. The crowds chanted at near riot levels, and it looked like the kingdoms of this world had won. And for the followers of Jesus who witness him sentenced to die on a cross, it certainly looked like the kingdom of this world had won. It looked like a victory for the powers of Satan, sin, and death.
But Romans 8 tells us that God is so powerful that he can take something that the kingdom of this world meant for evil, like the cross, and turn that awful thing into something that works out for our good and God's glory.
Jesus shows us on the cross what his kingdom is like. On the cross, Jesus died willingly in our place. The one who was falsely accused died, for those stand guilty of sin. The cross should have been the end, but it wasn’t. Three days later Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He didn’t just defeat sin, he also defeated death. Jesus made a way for us to never have to be separated from the love of God, not in life and not in death. Jesus the true King offers us forgiveness and new life. The Kingdom of God is nothing like kingdoms of this world.
Now when we see the cross, we don’t think about the power of Rome; we think about the power of Jesus! True power doesn’t come by the sword but through sacrifice. Jesus Christ is the mighty King who stepped down off his throne in heaven. And by his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, he has made a way for us to be welcomed back into his kingdom. When you put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, you are called into the Kingdom of Heaven and the family of God.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says,
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
This week, remember the cross.
Remember that no matter what you face in this life, Jesus loves you, and he has gone further than anyone else to display his love. Remember that when you were a traitor in your sin, Christ died in your place. Remember that Jesus is a good King, a good shepherd, who lays down his life for his people. Remember that Jesus is so powerful that he can turn what was meant for evil into something that can be used for our good and his glory. And finally remember, the power of Jesus and his kingdom was displayed by his sacrifice on the cross.
1 John 3:16 says,
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
This Holy Week, may we love Jesus our King and love others. May we be those who walk in a Kingdom, not of this world. And may we, with our children and our families, look to the cross this season of worship.