True Confession: I must have had a huge blonde moment (and, yes, I really am blonde in real life…mixed in with some grays) last week. I had it in my brain that there was one more week until Easter. And . . . I shared a different post than I’d intended. So, though Easter has already passed, I am posting this one for this week. Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this sort of thing. 🙂
During our time in Rome, Edmund and I toured the Colosseum, and my eyes caught on a cross. It brought to mind the reality that Christians were persecuted in this place.
Flavius’ Amphitheater was an extravagant undertaking for the men who visualized and built it. What stopped me hard was learning the reason it was built:
So Romans could watch people fight and spill blood. This was the sole reason.
My heart wrenched to see such an architectural masterpiece used as a venue for entertaining via suffering and blood spill. Most of us have read that Christians were martyred there as well, under the guise of being criminals. They were usually forced to fight for their lives against ferocious beasts.
As I scanned the open space of the excavated arena floor, the remaining crumblings of seats, and the beauty of the outer wall architectures against the brilliant blue sky, I kept coming back to that cross. This cross wasn’t part of the original builder’s plans. I’m not sure when it was added. But, it stood as a symbol of hope to me.
In a stadium designed to encourage bloodshed and sport that injured or took peoples’ lives, the cross still reigns supreme.
Yes, Christians were martyred for entertainment. But why? They were almost always accused of other crimes (Emperor Nero accused the Christians of setting the great fire in 64 A.D.), but the underlying issue was that most of them were believers in the work Jesus did on the cross.
In a world where persecution takes many forms, the cross still stands sentinel over peoples’ lives, peoples’ actions.
Jesus, the one, true Lord, died a martyr’s death. But the cross didn’t have the last word. Death didn’t pronounce the final victory.
And that truth is what people have been willing to die for throughout the A.D. years.
When we think of Easter, it’s easy to see the gentle pastels, the spring time beauty of just-blooming flowers. It’s comforting to think about celebrating Jesus’ resurrection at a sunrise service.
How often do we consider what led to the resurrection? Many Christians contemplate Jesus’ trial and unjustified death sentence during Holy Week. We rejoice at Jesus’ resurrection . . . and we should.
Do we reflect on how many people have been persecuted and martyred because of their belief in a resurrected Savior?
Can I be honest and say that—in my first-world life, with my one husband and two busy teenaged sons—I don’t give Holy Week and the persecution Jesus endured as much thought as I should?
Though the cross in the Colosseum was not built during the martyrdom of Christians, it stands today as a reminder that yes, people were killed for their belief in Jesus.
But death didn’t have the final word for them either.
Those who have died because of their belief in Jesus are defined not by how they died but by where they spend eternity.
The message of the cross still reigns today. This symbol offers a reminder that there is One who chose to carry the burden of our sin, to die in our place. The cross offers the hope that death on earth is not the end.
Seeing the cross that day reminded me that—though many died in the Colosseum, and many have died via martyrdom since then—their stories didn’t end there. And neither do ours.
We will all die one day. The ultimate reality is what we believe about the cross determines where we live the rest of our story.
The hope the cross offers comes because we know that, though death has a chapter in each story, it doesn’t get to declare, “The End.”
The cross reminds us that there’s a Savior who loves us . . . enough to die a painful death so we can know eternal life.
And that, my friend, offers great hope.
What about you? What does the cross speak to you? Where have you visited that caused you to stop and think about God?