Summary: Our cross is empty.
I have here some visual aids. I don’t usually do this, but today I’m going to talk about symbols, and I wanted you to see and be able to visualize the symbols I’m referring to.
This is a Star of David, one of the symbols of Judaism. It’s made of two interlocking triangles which form a six-pointed star, and its Hebrew name, magen David, literally means "Shield of David." Over the years, it’s gone by many different names and represented different concepts.
The origin of the Star of David is rather mysterious. There’s almost a 100% certainty that it has nothing do to with the reign of King David. It probably originated under a different name as the "Seal of Solomon."
The star was associated with various movements for Jewish emancipation, and by the 17th century it had become the Jewish counterpart of the Christian cross. Although the symbol has no biblical or Talmudic authority, it’s one of the major signs of Judaism, easily recognizable all over the world.
This is a symbol of Islam. It’s a crescent moon and a star. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this symbol, because many Muslims shun the use of symbols of any kind. I think it’s more or less something that just gradually evolved over time. I’m not sure it’s ever even been formally acknowledged as a symbol of Islam at all, but when we see it, we automatically think of Islam.
This is a symbol you’re all probably familiar with. It’s called the yin/yang. It’s a symbol of Taoism, which is more of a philosophy than an actual religion. Its principles are simplicity, patience, contentment, and harmony. The yin/yang symbolizes balance - male/female, good/evil, dark/light.
This is a crucifix. I know you’ve all seen these. It’s a cross with Jesus hanging on it, depicting the Crucifixion. The practice of putting the figure of Jesus on the cross began near the end of the sixth century. At first no artist dared show Jesus in his pain and humiliation. He was dressed in a long royal tunic, sometimes with a gold crown, and only his hands and feet were bare to show polite little nail marks. It was a triumphant image, with Jesus open-eyed and smiling .
The first image of a suffering Christ appeared in the tenth century, and was very unpopular. It was in fact condemned by the pope as blasphemy.
Gradually over the next three hundred years, artists started putting a suffering Jesus on the cross, deepening the wounds in his hands, changing the gold crown for a crown of thorns, and adding liberal drippings of blood. The long tunic shrank to a skimpy loincloth to further show the marks of Jesus’ torment, such as the scourge marks that covered his body.
The Star of David, the crescent and star, and the yin/yang all have some things in common. When you look at them, you see no messiah come to save the world. No Son of God made flesh to dwell among us. There’s no savior who died to save us from our sins. And since no savior died, there’s also no hope of resurrection or life everlasting.
As far as the crucifix is concerned, we can tell by looking at it that the Messiah has indeed come. The Son of God has been sent to us, and a savior has died to redeem us. However, 2000 years later, there’s still an agonized, bloody, dead Jesus hanging on this cross.
Now look at our cross. We have a cross on the Table there, and there’s a beautiful cross hanging just over the baptistry. What do you see when you look at this cross? Nothing? Well, in one way we see nothing, and in another way we see the hope of the world.
Today’s scripture comes from the first letter to the church at Corinth. Evidently the Corinthians had sent Paul a list of questions, and he answered them in a way meant to correct abuses in the church and to show how important it is that they live what they believe.
Verse 12 reads, "But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" The church at Corinth was in the heart of Greek culture. Most Greeks didn’t believe that people’s bodies would be resurrected after death. They thought that the soul was the real person, imprisoned in an earthly body.
At death, the soul entered into immortality, but the body stayed dead. Christianity holds that the body and soul will be united after resurrection. Because these Greek Christians were having a hard time believing in bodily resurrection, Paul wrote this part of his letter to clear up the confusion.