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Crosses were once what an electric chair is today — a means of putting criminals to death. How could a symbol of execution be worn as jewelry, decorate houses of worship and, at the same time, be offensive?

The fact of the cross of Jesus Christ says two things. First, that we are sinners. If it were not for our sin, the Son of God’s death on the cross would not have been necessary. Second, the cross says that there is nothing we could do about it. We could take the punishment but, because of our sin, could never pay the penalty. Jesus did both. Jesus said that He came "to give His life a ransom for many."1 John the Baptist said of Him, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"2

After living a sinless life, Jesus offered up His life as payment for our sin, experienced death and conquered it.3

Steel is as common a material for construction today as wood and stone were in the first century. The steel cross at Ground Zero is more appropriate than the crosses of polished brass seen more often or, what are even more incongruous, crosses of gold or silver, some studded with precious gems. All bear little resemblance to the cross on which the Savior of the world was put to death. The cross of Christ was roughly cut and hastily constructed from wood that probably wasn’t fit for simple furniture. It was erected on a hill that was a place of execution of the guilty … not the innocent. On the cross, Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth — the mediator between a holy God and sinful man.

At the moment of His death a miracle took place. The great curtain in the temple, that separated worshipers from God’s presence, was torn in two, from top to bottom – indicating it was an act of God.

The holy Son of God joined the human race. He lived for 33 years without sin and was killed. He paid the penalty for sin without committing the crime. So death had no power over Him. After three days in the grave, He came back to life again, and now offers forgiveness of sin and the gift of everlasting life to all.

Whether or not the steel cross at Ground Zero becomes part of the permanent memorial at the World Trade Center, it conveys a timely reminder of timeless truth. Some facts are inescapable.

Humanity is lost. Modern secular culture tries to explain away man’s sin. The plagues of immorality and violence are attributed to poverty, social injustice – even genetics. The blame is placed everywhere except where it belongs — the sinful human heart.

Eternity is certain. God’s Word indicates that once human life begins, there is no end to existence. Each person will face a final lasting judgment. Whatever a person’s destiny, it is eternal. Everlasting reward or punishment waits for every person on earth.

Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Modern culture seems to have accepted the idea that anything a person believes can be a pathway to eternal life and ultimate peace. According to God’s revealed truth, there is only one way to peace and everlasting life. The apostle Peter said, "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."4 Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me."5 The issue is not religion — but relationship. "He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."6

Forgiveness of sin and eternal life are not granted merely for believing in God’s existence and distinguishing right from wrong. Peace with God is obtained only through faith in Jesus Christ, who broke down the wall of separation between God and man. We who were enemies and far away from God because of our sin have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.7 In Christ’s birth, God came near to us. His death brought us near to God.8

"Memorial" is defined simply as "serving to preserve remembrance." It need not be a physical structure or a statue. It can be a ceremony or an act.

Each week, Christians recognize a memorial as believers have for 2000 years — Communion service, a remembrance initiated by Jesus himself. His words are carved in Communion tables all over the world, "This do in remembrance of me."

We eat bread and drink juice to remember His tortured body and His innocent blood that was shed because of our sins. We remember the death of the One whose life was not taken from Him. He didn’t just risk His life, He gave it, knowing that He would suffer and die. It wasn’t suicide — but a sacrifice.

Jesus said, "This is my body which is given for you" … His death was not senseless or without purpose, but given — for us.

The purpose of Communion is more than just remembering or even honoring Christ’s death. Communion celebrates that death personally with reverent gratitude and awe.

When Jesus instituted this memorial, of the disciples present only John would be an eyewitness to His suffering and death. The others would have no firsthand memory of the cross. They would only have, like us, a memorial.

A permanent memorial to the victims of 9/11 is yet to be determined. But, during the anniversary week of the tragedy, America will remember … and millions will also contemplate its meaning.

While remembering the tragic and senseless deaths that occurred on September 11, 2001, let us reflect on the most significant death in human history, a life that was not taken, but given — Jesus Christ’s purposeful death that resulted in God’s offer of forgiveness and everlasting life to all.

Scripture references: 1-Matthew 20:28, NASB, 2-John 1:29, 3-Hebrews 2:9,10, 4-Acts 4:12, 5-John 14:6, 6-1 John 5:12, 7-Ephesians 2:13, 8-1 Peter 3:18.


Randy Hurst is commissioner of evangelism for the Assemblies of God. E-mail the author at pe@ag.org.

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