The three crosses at Shepherd’s Garden are made from roughhewed cedar. Wood was chosen because of its simplicity and the fact that the cross of Jesus was wood. Cedar was chosen because of its durability, resistance to weather and its religious significance.
The arrangement of the three crosses is a traditional one with Jesus’ cross at the center and the crosses of the two criminals, who were executed with him, on both sides. The center, larger cross, represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The cross on which Jesus our Lord and Savior died for our sins is the most commonly recognized and most universally accepted symbol for Christianity the world over. It symbolizes God’s great sacrifice, an offer of salvation to all of humanity and the promise of the resurrection.
There are several traditions of what the cross on which Jesus was crucified was made from. According to the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the true cross was made from three different types of wood: cedar, pine and cypress. This allusion arises from Isaiah 60:13 (KJV): “The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box [cypress] together to beautify the place of my sanctuary, and I will make the place of my feet glorious." The association between this verse and the Crucifixion lies in the words, "the place of my feet", which is interpreted as referring to the foot rest on which Jesus' feet were nailed. The footrest of the cross was believed made of cedar for its durability and resistance to rotting.
Each year, one Lenten prayer in Eastern Orthodox churches reads: “Let us venerate the Cross of the Lord, offering our tender affection as the cypress, the sweet fragrance of our faith as the cedar, and our sincere love as the pine; and let us glorify our Deliverer who was nailed upon it.”
We can also look upon this symbolic tree of the Middle East as representative of Christ. The great height to which this tree can grow calls to mind the concepts of beauty and majesty. Also, because the cedar tree is an evergreen, or perhaps because it is long-lived, it has also come to be associated with eternal life.
One additional relevant comment on cedar comes from Ezekiel 17:22-24 (NIV).
22 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. 24 All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.’”
“‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’”