The current Portuguese flag was officially adopted in 1911, less than a year after the fall of the last king. Even though the country’s leaders decided it was time to have a new flag, they nevertheless kept many of the symbols from its predecessors (bear in mind that Portugal has been an independent country since 1143). The colors are supposed to mean the hope of the nation (green) and the blood of the ones that died to defend it (red).
In the centre of the flag there is a globe (representing the old navigation instrument known as the armillary sphere). This alludes to the time in Portuguese history known as the “Time of the Discoveries”. This was a time when Portugal was a world power with a military and political presence in all the continents of the world. The general disposition of the Portuguese people today is sad ann melancholic. Some say that the Portuguese people long for those past days and live the present in the light of an expectation to recover their glory.
The shield itself has remained unchanged almost since the founding of the nation. There is a legend surrounding this shield that involved the first king of Portugal, Afonso, and an apparition of Jesus. I don’t know any Portuguese person that believes the legend, but I think that the symbols that come from it are very interesting.
If you look closely, in the centre of the shield there are five smaller shields (known as Quinas), disposed as a cross. This is obviously supposed to represent the cross of Calvary, where Jesus, the Son of God, shed His blood as the only payment God would accept for the sins of the world. The price for our sins has been paid. Based on that perfect sacrifice, God now offers to all who will repent, an invitation of salvation. Have you received Jesus as you Savior?
The number five is important, because is represents the five major wounds that our Savior received because of His love for us. He was wounded twice on His hands, twice on His feet and once on His side. Can you imagine that? Jesus, as God, is the creator and sustainer of the heavens and the earth. The Creator accepted to be wounded by His creation. This reminds us of His great unconditional love.
Finally, each one of these five shields has in turn five small dots. Because you count the middle shield twice, adding all the shields, you get the number thirty. This reminds us of the thirty pieces of silver Judas received to betray the Lord. Jesus had washed the feet of the man that betrayed Him, knowing perfectly well that he would later betray Him.
Part of the work we are doing in Portugal is to let people know that what Jesus has done (and they can be reminded of that every day just by looking at their flag), can be made personal. One by one, we want to introduce the Portuguese people to a personal living Savior.