They say a picture says a thousand words…What does this picture say? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this picture is worth a thousand x ten thousand x ten thousand or 100 billion, and more. 100 billion is about how many people have ever been born. Yes Jesus died for all mankind. The number it is worth is actually infinite.
Illustration, or a picture has its roots in the earliest endeavors of humans. The cave paintings recorded the careful observation of early humans. So carefully observed were various animals, that scientists studying the images now can distinguish particular species, and whether they display winter or summer coats and markings. In those instances of cave drawings where we have no recorded literature, the pictures indeed tell us a story. A look back at early Egyptian civilization from 4000 BC to 300 AD, shows the ancient Egyptian language was expressed in paintings, sculptures and symbols and was used in place of the written word.
It is estimated that of the time of Christ, anywhere from 1 in 50,000, to 1-3% of the population were able to read or write according to limited available evidence. So the symbol of Christ, the Cross, became the focal point for the early church. It helped shore up the foundation of the early church and its believers, as there was no way for the early church to communicate their beliefs to one another in the open via text or written word, save the symbol of the Cross.
But because of the persecution of the early church, many Christians were even afraid to show the cross in any form, instead they drew the ichthys <><, or what we now call the “Christian Fish”. Ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. When a Christian met a stranger, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. Current bumper-sticker and business-card uses of the fish hearken back to this practice. The symbol is still used today to show that the bearer is a practicing Christian.
Also during this time the early church would use the sign of the cross to identify them as believers much as it does for us today. They would show themselves as a believer by tracing out the form of a cross using a stick or their sandal, then quickly wipe it away as not to be detected. It was not until the reign of Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor from 306, and the sole holder of that office from 324 until his death in 337, that freedom of religion was practiced. Constantine was known for being the first Christian Roman emperor. It took however another 50 years or so after the freedom to openly practice religion that the Cross began showing up in art and literature.
All throughout the history the Cross, and what it symbolizes to the Body of Christ , which is the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has been endeared to the heart of every believer. Can you imagine the early church believer as he or she was outlining the symbol of the cross in the dirt having to go farther and add another symbol for being a Baptist, Methodist, an Evangelical or a Charismatic? It goes to further my point as I do in many of my pieces, is that we as the Body of Christ need to set aside doctrinal differences here in these last days, as we can see the signs of the return of our Lord approaching. We need to concentrate on what unifies us as believers, which is the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which was shed on that Cross at Calvary.
The cross is arguably the best know symbol in the world and in the recorded history of mankind. Such is the impact of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. During the Reformation Martin Luther used paintings and pictures displaying Christ and the Cross to get his message across to the masses as a form of advertisement of the movement as only 3-5% of the population could read the written word. In order to send a message or to just simply get one across, the messenger had to be extremely resourceful. When Luther lit the fire of the Protestant Reformation, he fanned the flames using persuasive images of the Cross disguised as art. Some of these would even be called propaganda in today’s thinking. Those for whom the messages were intended had little trouble deciphering the meaning.
It is now most ironic that in our present, mostly literate society, we still see the use of many images as company logos as a major means of influence in TV, movies, Public Service ads, and especially political campaigns. It’s not what people are saying that’s troublesome, but how it is they are saying it. The Cross, and its message of Grace, says it all.
The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote in 1862, “A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte said “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours,” or “A good sketch is better than a long speech”.
No one ever picks up a newspaper or magazine or seeing an advertisement and wonders what Ford, Microsoft, CNN, or Coke-Cola is offering. We are familiar with who they are by the symbols and/or logos attached to the brand.
And so it is with the Cross. It is the symbol that embodies our faith. Not only does the Cross show where salvation was born in the death of Jesus on Golgotha, those of us who believe in its message know that it represents much more to us. The power of the message of the Cross offers freely to all mankind the Grace that was obtained on that tree, and further evidenced by our Lord’s resurrection as He conquered death and the grave, to obtain salvation for all who would believe. We are very familiar with what the symbol of the Cross stands for and represents, sometimes too familiar.
In Christianity the cross reminds Christians of God’s act of love in Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary—”the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The cross also reminds Christians of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through His death and resurrection He conquered death itself. They venerate it not as a material object seen in isolation but as the symbol of the sacrifice by which Christ saved them, as the instrument of Christ’s triumph, according to Colossians 2:15 “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”, and “as the instrument of our God’s saving Love”.
The symbol of the Cross was scratched and etched in various forms of art and manuscript until 1450 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and the Bible began distribution to the masses furthering the message of the Cross. In 1874 Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and for the first time mankind could began to communicate over vast distances the message of the Cross without actually having to be there in person. In 1895 Louis and Auguste Lumiere gave birth to the cinema which enable believers to record and display through the use of cinema the message of the Cross. In 1901 Gugliielmo Marconi transmitted the first radio signal which enabled the message of the Cross to be blasted on the air waves. In 1927 Philo Farnsworth transmitted the first image on television which would further the ability for the message of the Cross to be preached to all mankind. In 1992 the first Christian website ICLnet was launched via the internet showing the Christian perspective with the message of the Cross. The power of the internet is unmatched in all of history for furthering the message of the cross and the gospel to all mankind.
Mark 16:15 Jesus said to them, Go you into the entire world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
With all the technology and advances by man the message of the Cross now reaches to every corner of the world. The symbol that was secretly scratched in the dirt by early believers is now being broadcast as you read these words, across TV, radio, print and internet all over the world. We are the church that represent what that Cross stands for and embodies, and as such we should be doing our part as the gospel is being spread, to go out and help and save a lost and dying world.
The Word of God declares in Acts the 2nd Chapter… ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
It was upon the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ where salvation was born and it was His blood that was poured out on that cross to redeem all mankind. As the message of the cross penetrates every corner of the earth, in these times, let us reap the harvest of the message of that Cross, so that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Such is the message of the cross.