“(18) Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (19) Jesus said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” – John 21:18-19
We’re taught that the upside down cross is a sign of evil. Since Jesus died for our sins on the cross, wearing it upside down meant that you didn’t have the faith. It also meant that you weren’t thankful for the sacrifice made to be washed in the blood of the lamb. The people who taught me this fact were wrong.
The idea of the upside down cross comes from the legend of Peter’s death. For those who aren’t aware of who Peter is, he was one of Jesus’s disciples. Peter’s remembered for his fantastic way of speaking and for his fantastic way of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time (An example is in Matthew 16:21-23). Insert foot in mouth syndrome here. I’m sure we can all relate to him in that aspect. What you will hear about his death is that it’s an upside down crucifixion. Hence, the upside down cross.
Christian tradition tells us that he chose to be crucified upside down. The reason is that he didn’t feel worthy of dying the same way his savior had since he’d denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:33-35). This is a very poetic way of dying as a martyr and from it I’ve found a lot of respect for Peter.
The problem is that scripture doesn’t tell us when, where, or how he died. Roman records tell of his death, as well as many letters and other writings of that time. However, I haven’t read these writings yet.
In this scripture (John 21:18-19), Jesus states that Peter dies with outstretched arms. It’s interpreted that he’d be crucified. He also says that someone else will dress him and lead him to a place he doesn’t want to go. This could have meant that the executors would tie him up and take him to his death. None of us want to die (even when dying for our faith).
According to The Story of the Twelve Apostles (A History Channel documentary), Peter’s told of his death once more by Jesus. The church warns Peter that he might be executed so he begins to leave Rome. As he’s leaving, Jesus tells Peter that He’s (Jesus) headed into Rome because He’ll be crucified again. People interpreted this as Peter being told of his own death. If we look back to John 21:18-19, Jesus reveals to Peter that he will die a martyr. If Peter’s time was coming and he was leaving Rome, it only makes sense that Jesus would come to Peter and tell him to turn back.
No matter what happened, Peter’s crucifixion happened upon his return to Rome. The documentary says that this is found in the writing, The Acts of Peter. You can find more information on that by clicking HERE.
Regardless of whether Peter’s death was an upside down crucifixion, the point of this symbol is still the same. There are people in this world who are not believers and sport the upside down cross as a way of denying God. Bands and singers put them in their music videos. Other famous people wear them around. It’s a way of showing how far from God they are, or to defile God in some way that suits their needs to be defiant. They’re misinformed of its meaning.
It means that you are not worthy of God. That you are below Him and His holiness. His mercy, forgiveness, and love. It doesn’t mean you are siding with evil. It means that you are just not worthy. It’s as simple as that. However, if you’ve been saved and follow Jesus I wouldn’t wear them around. While we aren’t on His level, He’s washed us in His blood.
Picture via Symmetal.com