Have you seen the “crosses of Calvary” display outside our church?

crosses of Calvary picture

on display outside Redeemer by the Sea

Folks have asked me a few questions:

1.  Why three crosses?  Matthew 27:38 gives us the answer to that question:

“Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.”

2. If Christ’s cross is in the center, why does it have that sign on it that reads “INRI?”  John 19:19 gives us that answer:

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.'”

3. Then why isn’t it “JNKJ?” Because the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek (John 19:20).  In both Latin and Greek the first letter of Jesus’ name is an “I,” and in Aramaic (a Hebrew dialect of sorts) Jesus’ name begins with an “I” sound.   The “R” comes from the Latin “Rex,” meaning King.   The last “I” has a similar explanation to the “I” representing Jesus’ name – it is also the first letter/sound of the word “Jews.”

4. The cross hanging in our sanctuary has the letters “ihs” on it.  Why is that?  This is for a different reason.  The Bible does not record that such a sign was hung on or near the cross of Christ.  However, in the Church, it is used as an abbreviation for the first three letters of Jesus’s name in Greek.  Jesus’ name in Greek sounds like “yay-zoos” and is spelled iota, eta, sigma, omicron, upsilon, sigma in Greek.  The first three letters, when written in their closest English characters are “IHS.”

5. Why just three letters?  Church artists and theologians like the Trinitarian reference of just three letters.  Three persons in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Three letters on the cross.

6. I’ve heard it said that these letters stand for “In His Service.”  To which I respond, “Sure!  Why not?”

I’d like to leave you with these two thoughts from Max Lucado’s book, He Chose The Nails.  Speaking of this sign that hung above Jesus head, he writes: “There is no person God will not use.”  If you recall the criminal on the cross beside Jesus who begged Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom (Luke 23:42).  It is entirely likely that the criminal did not know who Jesus was, nor that He was a King, until he read that sign.  God used sinful, cowardly and pagan Pontius Pilate to save a man’s soul!  Pilate’s intent was likely to mock the Jews and use Jesus as a warning to others that would put themselves up against Caesar’s reign!  But instead, God used Pilates actions to save someone… there is no one that God will not use.

And “there is no language God will not speak,” Max Lucado writes.  The sign was written in the three most prominent languages of that time. This was so that anyone who could read, could read it.  God always makes sure that His message is accessible to everyone – no matter what their language!  He does this through various means, but those means always point to the cross of Christ.

As you and I ponder the meaning and significance of “INRI,” “IHS,” and other words associated with the cross of Christ … may we never fail to marvel at the lengths that God will go to in order to show His love for us!

Marveling at the wonder of the Cross,

Pastor Augie.