The Cross Stands Above It All

I love Easter! It is the festival in the church calendar that for me towers above all the others. It is fun to celebrate Christmas. I love the power of Pentecost. Yet without Easter these other highpoints of the church year would cease to exist. Easter is the kingpin that holds the Christian faith together.

The Easter season covers between 7 to 10 days of Jesus’ 33 year long life yet the gospel accounts devote a disproportionately large amount of space to it, because of its fundamental significance. Easter morning is fantastic as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead!

When I was younger I used to want to rush through to Easter morning. Partly for the chocolate! But mainly because I find the Good Friday account of Christ’s death made me sad. Sad because the hero of the gospels, the saviour who I love, dies. Sad because of the injustice of the illegal, kangaroo court, that convicted Jesus on trumped up charges from false witnesses. Sad because of the gruesome brutality of the floggings that Jesus endured from the soldiers. Floggings that left a man’s back raw with flesh and were capable of ripping his internal organs out. Sad because of the suffering on the cross as Jesus hung naked and ashamed, surrounded by mocking onlookers as flies buzzed around his open wounds, and the heat of the sun bore down on his exposed body.

Despite the undoubted sadness of the crucifixion I have come to realise that it is the centre point of the gospel. When doubts enter my mind, it is the historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection that stabilises my faith and reassures me of the truth of the gospel. Of course without the crucifixion there could be no resurrection, but Christ’s crucifixion is not merely a precursor to the resurrection. If it were I am sure God could have found a less blood chilling manner for Jesus’ death.

Throughout the New Testament writings we see that Christ’s death provides the transaction that means that we can be forgiven for our sins. As we have seen in our study in 1 Corinthians, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (the society around us) but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Time and again, in Paul’s writings especially, we see that Christ’s death is the very means by which we are saved. On the cross Jesus took the punishment we deserve, he died the death that we should die in order that God’s justice could be complete. The cross stands above it all!

As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday I encourage you to take time to linger at the cross and reflect on its power and significance. Rejoice that Christ has paid your debt and allow this truth to stir and strengthen you. As you do I am sure that this will only heighten the sense of joy as we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Day.

 

This blog post featured in the March 2016 edition of Lifelines

 

 

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The Message of the Cross

Recently two women (Mrs Eweida and Mrs Chaplin) took their case to the European Court after they faced disciplinary action for wearing crosses to work. The British Government argued that Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work and claim that the two women’s application to the Strasbourg court was “manifestly ill-founded”. The fuss that has surrounded this matter has divided opinion in the UK, sometimes along unexpected lines.

Controversy has surrounded the cross ever since Christ was crucified. St Paul wrote: ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’  1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV) Crucifixion was a brutal form of execution that was designed to torture its victims as, over many hours, it led to a slow painful death, primarily through asphyxiation. Even among the Romans the cross was an object of horror, so for a Jew to declare that ‘it is the power of God’ is astonishing.

How is it then that something as unpleasant as the cross could become the symbol of God’s power and love? Paul’s answer is ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.’ 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NIV) If Jesus’ death on the cross had been the end of his story then he would have been just another forgotten Jew who died at the hands of the Roman occupation army. However, as millions of Christians will celebrate on Easter Day, Christ did not stay dead but resurrected from the tomb demonstrating his power over death, affirming his power to provide forgiveness. Christ’s resurrection transforms a rough wooden cross from being an ugly object of scorn into the glorious means of our rescue from sin.

The true mark of a follower of Jesus is not a cross worn around their neck but that the message of the cross has penetrated their heart. We invite you to join us this Easter Sunday as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Our prayer is that you too may know the power of God that is found in the message of the cross.

This blog post featured in the April 2012 edition of Hook Focus