as a Symbol of Christianity
We don’t quickly associate a picture of an anchor with Christianity in today’s world. Rather, it is the cross or maybe the fish that is most widely recognized. But for the first 300 years after Jesus resurrection – and especially during the periods of persecution – it was the symbol of the anchor that served to identify a Christian presence. There is much archaeological evidence to support this. It was the symbol of an anchor, not a cross that was etched into grave sites and tombs in the early centuries. It was not until after Christianity had become the state sanctioned religion, under Constantine, that the cross began to take prominence.
What follows are a few personal musings about the two symbols, the cross and the anchor.
To me, the cross symbolizes the fight for victory and the anchor symbolizes the assurance of victory. The cross implies action, even struggle. It symbolizes the pursuit of our calling in Jesus. Jesus himself says, “If any one of you wants to be my disciple, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.” (Matt.16:24). This implies an effort on my part as a disciple.
Jesus says, “take it up…follow”. Effort and movement.
Than anchor is different. The anchor is let down and it descends beyond sight.
The writer of Hebrews says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” This presents such a different side of our discipleship – one side effort and movement and the other side firm and secure. Firm and secure, rest and confidence. It creates a picture of how Jesus has gone beyond the surface physical life and has secured the anchor for us in a mysterious, other worldly place.
The journey of the cross is difficult and intimidating. Jesus understands this. We see the raw emotion of this as he prays in the Garden before the mob comes to arrest him. Jesus says, “Father, there must be another way…” The cross is pain and struggle. Jesus took up the cross and followed his Father’s will.
But in that same account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22) – even in the same breath, Jesus secures himself to an anchor. That anchor is the trust he has in his heavenly Father. Look at how Jesus anticipates the cross with feelings of dread and yet overcomes the fear by reaffirming his anchor in the will of God the Father.
“If there be some way…..nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
That’s what an anchor does. Firm and secure.
It would be fun to continue deeper into theological musings around the symbolism of the cross and the anchor. For instance, how Jesus the cross becomes the anchor of sin, judgement and death. Jesus is fastened to that anchor and descends into the darkness of hell. And how he then overcomes that anchor, rising from the dead and holding the very keys of death and Hades.
The anchor of death holds no power over him. Wonderful things to ponder.
But for the time being, I take up my cross for the fight at hand and I drop the anchor for the victory which is secured.