Meaning of the Cross
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) closed out this year’s Spooky Season, bringing to a temporary end skeleton costumes and candied skulls.
While we all have a vague idea of what the holiday represents – remembering departed loved ones, opening a spiritual portal to enable the dead’s return to the Earth, and coming together to eat good food – it’s much more than that. …
It’s a celebration of life!
In other words, it reminds people not to take life for granted.
And the skeleton costumes are not just for fun.
Every symbol plays an important role. Even salt and water, flowers and incense have jobs to do. Skulls represent those who have passed (obviously), and the food offerings and beautiful décor on the ofrendas (altars) are meant to help guide the departed back to their families. By gazing upon the symbols the dead can reconnect with the living.
For those of us who did not grow up experiencing this tradition, the holiday can sound more than a little creepy and far-fetched. How can gazing at symbols reinstate life?
Not so fast!
The Israelites, dying from attacks by serpents, looked upon a bronze serpent – lifted up on a pole – to overcome the venom and live (Numbers 21:4-9). But the power was not in the bronze snake. The power was in acknowledging their sin and staring down its result – through a symbol – in faith that God would heal them of their mortal wounds and iniquities.
And that symbol was a precursor of the better known symbol that was to come: Jesus on the cross! The ancient Roman torture device meant to bring about excruciating death is now no longer an object to fear, for it is a symbol of life! Because through death on the cross and ensuing resurrection, Christ drained death of its power.
Now when we gaze on the cross, or more specifically Jesus our perfect Sacrifice, we can rejoice in that death will not touch our spirits and we will live eternally with the Lord.
Connecting: An ofrenda is decorated with some of the departed’s favorite food, drinks and other items from the material world. It makes a statement about the person’s life. What would be placed on yours?
Sharing: All Souls’ Day, Pitru Paksha, Obon, Día de los Muertos, Chuseok, Qingming Festival … Cultures around the world celebrate, in some form, the souls of the dead. Why do you think such different cultures have such similar holidays?
- Death is something we all fear and we have common ways of dealing with that fear and loss
- It is the deceptive work of Satan and the fallen angels
- It hints at a common origin story
- Some things cannot be explained without giving credit to the paranormal
- This is how Gentiles explained the resurrection of the dead like Moses, Lazarus, and Jesus
Applying: Hebrews 10 makes clear that our sacrifices are not enough to atone for our sins. Sacrifices repeated at the alter year after year cannot draw us any closer to God or shape a departed soul’s future. Pray for and brainstorm ways you can use this knowledge from Scripture to help those who believe in the undying soul.