where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods and thus produced young ones that were striped, speckled, and spotted. Jacob separated the ones with spot, speckle or stripe and the black ones and did not let them mingle with those of Laban’s. Whenever the strongest of the flock were breeding Jacob laid the rods in the troughs before the eyes of the flock that they might breed among the rods and for the feebler of the flocks he did not lay them there. In short the feebler became that of Laban and stronger that of Jacob. Jacob grew in wealth and the Lord blessed him.
It is here the above mentioned song comes into consideration, namely, when the sheep, goats and the lambs that were seeing the striped rod and breeding while drinking water they produced the striped young ones. The striped rod is seen as the symbol of the holy cross by the fathers to say that whenever humans, who belonged to the adversary or traitor, here in comparison with Laban, whom Jacob depicts as a cheater (Gen31: 7), come to water in the troughs, namely for baptism, they encounter and take in the holy cross and they are born again with stripes, speckle and spots, namely belonging to the herd of the saved ones or that of Jacob’s. Spot, speckle and stripe are seen here as symbol of life. Death has no power over them for there is life in them, which is the medicine to defeat death. This faith is initiated through the salvific cross. Thus the holy cross has emptied the hades and moved the souls in bondage to the predicament of happiness and freedom. Just as Jacob put the peeled rods to put away the flocks from the cheater, the Lord put the holy cross, to mean His own death and resurrection, to trample and kill death. The Lord has plundered the hades and the proceeds belonged to Holiness. St. Paul cannot but attest this fact in Eph 2:16, namely, ‘And that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enemy’.
We can see the Kukilion of the holy cross (Psalm 44: 5, 7), that is, ‘In You we shall push back our enemies and in Your name we shall scorn those who rise up against us. For You saved us from those who afflict us. And You disgraced those who hate us’, only in this very context. The holy cross is the one instrument that scripted life for the whole humanity!
Holy Cross in the New Testament
Cross in the New Testament times was an instrument used by the Romans generally for the punishments of slaves, specifically the cross on which our Lord died as recorded in the Gospels. Cross has a derived meaning as trials and misfortunes especially when considered as tests of Christian patience or virtue (Mt 16:24) as well.
When we read Phil 2:8 the abomination of cross is to be felt: ‘And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross’. However, when the Lord endured this abomination, it became a blessing and reason for happiness, which St. Paul describes in Hebrews 12:2, namely, ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’. These verses mean that Christ voluntarily accepted the humiliation and death. It is in this notion itself that Jesus says to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt 16:24; Mk 8:3410:21; Lk 9:23). Jesus not only preached this idea but put into practice too as we see in Jn 19: 17, ‘And bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha’. The negative version of this verse is seen in Mt 10:38, namely, ‘And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. In Lk 14:27 we read, ‘And who ever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Two ideas are evident here. Each person must take up his own cross. Secondly, the burden in this world is different for each person, and each has been chosen by God to bear certain struggles for his own salvation and the salvation of those around him. Therefore, the cross is to be taken up daily. In other words, commitment to following Christ is not just a one-time event. Rather, it is the continual practice of faith and obedience, even to the point of being shamed and persecuted by the world.
St. Paul also was confronted with the question of abomination of the cross and he came well with it. In I Corinthians 1:17 and 18 we read: ‘For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.’ He was able to understand the profound meaning of the cross as power of God, though it was seen by the world around him as disgrace.
Another idea we see with Paul is that cross shall mean burdens that come along with the Christian faith. In Gal 5:11 we read, ‘And, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.’ St. Paul was not prescribing circumcision to the gentiles for achieving salvation but the abomination and disgrace of the holy cross instead. He carries on to say that ‘As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ’ (Gal 6:12). However, the consolation is the confidence of St. Paul, who is unashamed to say that he is willing to boast in the holy cross of the Lord, ‘But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Gal 6:14). This confidence has taken many expressions from Paul and we can read here some of them:
- Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us that was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:14).
- For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil 3:18).