Many thanks to my friend and sometimes critique partner, John Brunson, for the following guest post. It is most appropriate for this Holy Week.
WHY THE CRUCIFIX?
by John Brunson
In my experience growing up, there weren’t many Good Friday services being Protestant. It wasn’t until I came to where I am now that I got a chance to attend one. And most churches I’ve attended display an empty cross. So why the crucifix?
Consider for a moment what you are looking at: A man, who has had his arms and legs attached to wood by driving a railroad-like spike through his wrists and his feet. No doubt the victim is in wordless agony. The pain is so bad that there’s a word for it: excruciating (literally “out from the cross”).
Consider again that the man on the cross is taking our punishment. The wages of sin is death. And here death is, in all of its repugnant horror, before us. So much so, that we are led to gasp, “Christ on the altar!”
Some will say, “But Jesus isn’t on the cross anymore.” And they are right. But without a Good Friday, there is no Easter Sunday. Without the Cross, there is no resurrection, there is no hope. Woe unto us because we should be pitied above all other men. And yet the cross is where sorrow and hope meet. Sorrow because the innocent God-man dies in order to save his creation. And hope because this isn’t the end of the story.
In the gospel of John, the writer makes an interesting point. He stated that Jesus “gave up his spirit” when he died. It’s a turn of a phrase that has always made me pause until… I remember Jesus’ words: “No man takes my life from me. I lay down my life and I take it up again.”
And that’s why the cross isn’t just a sorrowful memory. It’s a hint of the resurrection. Not even death could claim victory. It’s Jesus willingly laying down his life. His life wasn’t taken; his life was given. Meaning Jesus holds all the cards. Jesus is doing things his way. And he’s doing them on his terms. The Messiah is dealing decisively with Israel’s greatest nemesis. Not The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks or even the Romans. Jesus is dealing decisively with death itself. It’s here that Jesus takes his place as the king without equal.
The crucifix, the place where sorrow and hope meet.
Kathy here again. What are your thoughts on the crucifix? Do you display an empty cross, a cross with the figure of Jesus, or no cross at all? Why? Explain your thoughts in the comments section.
Have a blessed Easter. Christ is Risen!