JOHN PEARRELL: Have hope that Jesus can transform you

Look around you. Crosses are everywhere. They decorate our houses of worship; they are used as art in our homes; we wear them as pieces of jewelry; and in a new trend, I see many young people displaying crosses as body art.

For many, the cross is nothing more than a piece of art, but stop and think about it for a minute.

The cross was the cruelest and most barbaric form of death ever devised by man. Typically, it took a person who was crucified three or four days to die -- three or four agonizing days.

When death finally came, it was generally the result of suffocation. If you have ever been in a situation where breathing was labored, or you were near drowning, you know the absolute panic of the moment.

Forensic medical historians tell us that the Roman method of crucifixion called for nails in nerve centers of the wrists and feet, resulting in a searing pain that did not subside over time. So horrible was this form of death that Roman citizens were exempted from it.

Historically, when Antiochus Epiphanes took Jerusalem, he had the men of the city crucified, and as they hung there, their families were brought before them, and each member, male and female, were sexually molested, tortured, and then murdered in the cruelest fashions imaginable.

At this point, the man on the cross had his eyes put out so that the last thing he would remember seeing was the rape, abuse and murder of his family. Historians tell us that 70,000 died in this particular scourge.

Given these facts, how in the world did this horrible instrument of death become a thing so revered that we wear it and decorate with it? When and how did this instrument of horror become such a symbol of hope?

I suggest that the event that so changed the image of the cross, was the presence of the Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, upon it.

Now, let me quickly add that central to that transformation is the fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave. The corroborating evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is broad and varied.

Jesus is in the transforming business. He transforms everything he touches. If He can take something as revolting, as abhorrent, as the cross, and transform it into a symbol of beauty and reverence, there is nothing or no one so vile that He cannot change it.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV84).

I don't know the situation in which you find yourself as you read this article. Perhaps you find yourself wondering if there is any hope for you. There is hope. There is help.

Because of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, you can have forgiveness and the full acceptance of God. He who transformed the cross can transform you as well.

John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.