Extreme Makeover

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Extreme makeovers promise to change everything from looks to personalities to houses. Often people make changes just because it’s possible or because they want to try something new.

Two thousand years ago there was something so ugly and awful that it appeared beyond an extreme makeover.

It was the cross—the kind chosen for Jesus’ death. Romans in the time of Jesus used the cross to make a person suffer in the worst way possible. Hanging on a cross with your feet and hands nailed to the wood was the cruelest way to die. It was also very humiliating because the crosses stood in full view of all who walked the nearby paths.

Thousands of people were put to death that way for hundreds of years.

But death, even death on a cross, couldn’t stop Jesus. Jesus came back to life and beat death and sin. So Christians saw the cross differently. It became a symbol of Jesus’ love.

Secret Cross

The early believers had to hide their faith from people who thought Christians couldn’t be trusted and must be killed. So the followers of Christ used symbols in clever ways. For example, they hid the cross in a picture of an anchor. They put these anchor pictures on tombs of Christians who died.

Besides having arms like a cross, anchors remind us of what the Bible says about Christian faith: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19).

Designer Crosses

There are many more designs of crosses. Some of them are old designs, and some are new. Many newer designs have more to do with art and meaning than a particular time in history. Here are some of the older ones:

The Tau Cross. It was one of the earliest designs. It resembles the Greek letter T. The New Testament was first written in Greek.

The Latin Cross. This is the most common form of the cross.

The Three-Step Cross. Starting from the top, the steps stand for Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love).

The Celtic Cross. This is also an early Christian cross. It is believed to have been taken from what is now Ireland to the island of Iona.

Think about the crosses you have seen. Maybe they are in your church, on another church building, or part of a piece of jewelry. On a piece of paper draw your own cross design. What symbols could you add to make it meaningful?

Change of Heart

Nearly 300 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, the cross symbol became more popular. Constantine, the new emperor of Rome, claimed to be a Christian. He put an end to killing people on the cross. When people no longer saw such cruel deaths, they may have found the cross more appealing.

Also, Constantine’s mother traveled to Jerusalem and claimed to find the cross on which Jesus died. We don’t know if that could have been possible, but remembering that the cross was empty helped people in their faith.

It was a time when people were trying to determine if Jesus was both human and God. Only Jesus as both human and God could have died and risen again.

In those early days of celebrating the cross, people put little pieces of wood in special boxes, called reliquaries. Sometimes the boxes were shaped like a cross.

It wasn’t until the time just before St. Francis, in the 1200s, that people began to carry plain crosses. They wore simple wood or metal crosses.

Fantastic Results

Jesus changed the meaning of the cross. But better yet, he can change you.

Read the gospel of John, chapter 3. It tells you about being born again—the ultimate makeover. With Jesus, you’ll never be the same.

Check the things that make you different because of Jesus:

  • You know you can go to God in prayer.
  • You know your sins are forgiven because of Jesus.
  • You have love in your heart for others.
  • You want to help others with their troubles because that’s part of taking up your cross, as Jesus told us to do.
  • You have joy in following the ways of Jesus.

About the Author

Carol Reinsma is an author and editor for the Walk With Me church school curriculum published by Faith Alive Christian Resources. She attends Cragmor Christian Reformed Church, Colorado Springs, Colo.

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