This cross stands in the Roman Coliseum, steps from the box Emperors sat in two thousand years ago. Just a few blocks away, on a street lined with tourist shops and restaurants, you can look down, past a rusty grate and see where prisoners were held until dragged into the arena where they would fight to their death against gladiators and exotic beasts.
Some of those prisoners were believers in Jesus Christ; held like cattle and murdered like criminals because they refused to worship Caesar. Though they were powerless in this life, they held to the strength of the Almighty and woke up in Paradise.
My own sins have held me captive. So many days and nights I’ve spend grasping for strength, yet tightening my sin chains, the smell of earth and death all around me. I have been dragged into the arena to battle the Evil One, that prowling lion, looking for a spot to rip into and destroy me.
I am powerless to fight him. My strength is empty, my soul brittle dry like the dirt of that arena floor.
Then Jesus comes to stand in my place. He who created the cross and the tomb so he could die a criminal’s death and I could wake to eternal life. The Highest of Powers bends down to my weakness.
He caresses my tear and bloodstained cheeks and raises me to my feet. The powers of this world are no match for Jesus. No emperor or tyrant can restrain the Lion of Judah.
“The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.” Psalm 121:5
The Hebrew word “tsel” means “shade” or “shadow”. In the moments of my life where I have felt truly powerless, I sought out strength from anything this world could provide. And all along I stood in the shadow of Strength.
Jesus keeps me close to his side. My power is weakness until I am standing in his shadow. I am strong because His glory goes before me and his might is beside me; strengthening me, holding me, keeping me.
At the foot of the Cross lies my shame, my weakness, my guilt. In the shadow of the Cross I stand strong, cleansed, free.