It’s a torture device, right? So why do Christians wear it as jewelry, display it on their churches, hang it on their walls?

Partly, it’s just convention—we’re so used to the symbol that the ghoulishness of it has worn off. But when we really focus on it—and the fact that literally millions of people were put to death on crosses—a deep meaning emerges.

The cross tells us that even God is vulnerable. Even God is betrayed, abused, murdered, and mocked. The cross reminds us that there is no human emotion, no condition of life, no injustice or indignity that God has not felt and suffered and shared.

Christians teach that in Jesus, God put aside his power, and entered the world as one of us—small, weak, and vulnerable. He became one with us—not only in our dignity, but in our weakness as well. His solidarity with us was total—all the way to the grave.

Far from being above and beyond us, Jesus has seen everything from our perspective, and his commitment to us is unchanging—even now. There is no human emotion, no pain, no consequence that he has not felt and faced and met head on.

If you want a God who understands you in your most difficult and darkest moments—this is a good one.

But the best news is that the grave did not win. By raising Jesus from the dead, God broke the power that death and sin and hell hold over human beings forever. That is the Christian hope. The cross isn’t a symbol of power, it is a symbol of defeat. The defeat of death itself.