Making Sense of the Christian Cross That Washed Ashore in Florida

'God has already spoken loud and clear in the Bible'

Do you remember playing shadow tag as a child? Many of us have fond memories of chasing our classmates around the school playground or neighborhood trying to stomp on shadows in that classic childhood game.

My wife and I have two children under the age of six, and for the past two summers we watched with wide smiles as this pair dashed around our grassy backyard, giggling and shouting as they attempted to “tag” each other’s shadows in the sunlight.

But it isn’t only children who chase shadows.

Millions of American adults do it, too, in the realm of religion and spirituality.

Take, for instance, the way many Americans are responding to a giant wooden cross that washed up on the shores of a Fort Lauderdale beach last Saturday.

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When beachgoers discovered a water-logged, 20-foot white cross that was completely covered in barnacles, it was quite a surprise. Not wanting to see the cross disappear with the next rising tide, a group of people hauled it out of the surf and put it on display behind the Ocean Manor Resort Hotel, where it has since become the centerpiece of countless news stories and social media posts.

Once the religious relic had been rescued to safety, tourists and locals alike began to ask the same basic questions: Where did this cross come from? How old is it? How did it get here? Did it ride the tides of a recent hurricane?

Given the religious nature of the cross, deeper questions followed: Is this a sign? Is this divine timing? Is it a message from heaven? An answer to prayer?

As local reporters interviewed participants and bystanders, most of them were convinced this sea-drenched cross had a much deeper meaning. One woman visiting from Michigan called it “very spiritual,” while another tourist said that he “felt heavenly about it.”

Frank Talerico, owner of the hotel where the cross is now displayed, said he believes the cross is a sign of God’s protection.

Over the past week, many Americans expressed similar sentiments.

As a pastor, I always appreciate when people acknowledge the existence of God — or pause to ponder His involvement in our everyday lives. And people are entitled to their own feelings and beliefs.

But to me, it’s a mistake to conclude that this water-logged cross is a sign from heaven, a special message from God, or a signal of His heavenly presence or protection.

God doesn’t need a beached cross, a group of cows huddled in the shape of a crucifix, or a “miraculous” grilled cheese sandwich in the shape of Jesus to communicate vital truth for our lives.

God has already spoken loud and clear in the Bible — a dynamic collection of 66 books that were inspired by Him for our benefit (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

For all those who want to hear a message from God, they should simply open the Bible and start reading (Psalm 119:105). As a wise man once said, “Don’t say God is silent when your Bible is closed.”

God doesn’t need a beached cross, a group of cows huddled in the shape of a crucifix, or a “miraculous” grilled cheese sandwich in the shape of Jesus to communicate vital truth for our lives.

In addition, Jesus Himself frowned upon asking for “signs.” During the first century, many scoffers and skeptics demanded that Jesus give them a heavenly sign. They wanted proof that He was the divine Savior He claimed to be. But Jesus rebuked this kind of crass sign-seeking — saying the only sign that mattered was His resurrection from the dead after three days (Matthew 12:38-40). They kept asking to see evidences of God, yet God was in the flesh, standing right in front of them (John 10:30).

The point is, something is wrong when people go hunting for hidden spiritual messages in a soggy piece of ocean driftwood, when God has already spoken so definitively through the Bible, His written word — and Jesus the Son, the Living Word (Hebrews 1:1-3).

If you desire to know the deepest truths about life, death, and a meaningful relationship with God, stop chasing the fleeting shadows.

Instead, set your mind on the real substance — which is found in Jesus Christ alone (Colossians 2:17).

Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 20 years. He is also the featured Bible teacher on the “Preaching for a Change” weekly podcast.  

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