Included in this week’s issue:
Is Wearing a Cross Today Like Wearing an Electric Chair Then?
From time to time we will hear a preacher explain that wearing a cross around our necks today – something that is not the least bit startling – is similar to wearing an electric chair around our necks. It’s not something you would give someone as a nice, quaint piece of jewelry. It is meant to remind us that the cross was a means of execution, not a happy symbol. The sentiment is correct even if the comparison is not. Crucifixion was not really a means to kill someone. It was a means to humiliate and torture them. Death was an unwelcome by-product because it brought the suffering to an end.
Thomas Edison’s company developed the first electric chair as a means of ensuring a quicker, more sure, and humane (at least at the time) death for criminals. Such an execution is carried with some measure of dignity for the process, the executed, the executioner, and those who are allowed to observe. It is not a spectacle.
A crucifixion was just the opposite. It was designed to be as painful, humiliating, drawn-out and inefficient as possible. Given the brutality, it was only used for slaves, pirates, and traitors. It was never used for Roman citizens. John Stott, in The Cross of Christ, quotes Cicero on how debased and unthinkable such a death was,
To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder: to crucify him is – What? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed.
The electric chair produces a painful death in the fastest way in a sterile legal process. The cross was, by design, a degrading, unspeakably excruciating torture in a blood-thirsty macabre public circus, which sought to stave off death as long as possible, often times, days at a time.
The electric chair, other than the death it produces, is as opposite a crucifixion as it can be.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” (Gal. 3:13)
“It is dangerous for those who are seeking salvation to lean upon the experience of other people. Many are waiting for a repetition of the experience of their grandfather or grandmother. I had a friend who was converted in a field; and he thinks the whole town ought to go down to that meadow and be converted. …The best thing for the anxious is to go right to the Word of God. If there are any persons in the world to whom the Word ought to be very precious it is those who are asking how to be saved.”
-D.L. Moody, The Way to God, 1884.