It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.”
— Luke 23:44-47
A Symbol of Victory
In February of 2013, a man spent $92,613 to purchase a bloody sock. The sock was a part of a live auction held at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion in Manhattan. This sock was worn by pitcher Curt Schilling in Game 2 of the 2004 World Series on an ankle that had been sutured due to a damaged tendon, and thus, the sock was bloodied during the game.
The only plausible explanation for this behavior is that the man is a baseball fan in general, and/or a Boston Red Sox fan in particular. The Red Sox went on to win the 2004 World Series and break the 86-year “curse” of not having won the championship. You see, to a Boston Red Sox fan, this bloody sock symbolizes victory.
How did the cross, which was a symbol of terrible persecution and shame, a reality so disturbing the Roman orator Cicero said it should not be spoken of publicly, and a death so painful we created a unique word for it (“excruciating” literally “out of the cross”) — become a symbol that early Christians proudly proclaimed? It is because of the One who hung on it, and the victory He won by it.
Jesus is the redeemer of the world. The word redemption means “to buy back.” In ancient times, there were slave markets in which someone could purchase the rights to a slave and then allow them to go free, i.e. to redeem them. Jesus redeems us from the slavery of sin by His death on the cross. His death on the cross is how he “purchased” us from sin, death and the works of Satan so that we might become Children of God living in peace and joy.
A man was willing to pay $92,613 for a bloodied sock because it represented in part the “cost” of Curt Schilling to help win the World Series and a symbol of that victory. When we look at a cross, God proves to us how valuable we are, and it is God’s definitive victory over sin and death on our behalf.
The Resurrection Changes Everything
When I was a first-grader at St. Theresa Catholic School, I was playing one day in the sand box with a fellow student. I was having a great day. I looked up and noticed her looking at me with a grave expression. She said both solemnly and urgently, “There’s a bee on your head.” “What?! Are you serious?” I said hurriedly. “Yes”, she responded. I was frozen in fear as I could feel the bee moving across the back of my neck where my hairline ended. I could not move, paralyzed, waiting for this bee to sting me and ruin my day.
Before the Resurrection of Jesus, death was definitive. No matter how good a person’s life was, they were going to die, and everything that united them to others would be broken. All of humanity was like me as that little boy. No matter how good my day was up to that point, I was going to be stung, and it was going to spoil the day. But after the Resurrection, because Jesus has died for us and come back from the grave, we now know there is a love that is stronger than death itself. Death is now like a bee that has its stinger pulled out. As Dr. Peter Kreeft once remarked, for a Christian, death is no longer a hole you fall into, but now a door you walk through, into eternal life.
Look at how St. Paul says it,
“What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword….
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us.
In Jesus, who has been crucified and raised, we can experience the victorious love of God. A love that is stronger than death itself.