Summary: Almost every Easter Sermon deals with the empty tomb. That’s all "once a year folk" ever hear. This sermon is to catch them with the message of the cross. It applies to our sanctuary cross, but can fit most any cross.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST ...
EMPTY, BUT ALWAYS FULL ...
Dr. David L. Haun
Hope Christian Church
Today is Easter. Today we remember, celebrate, and give God praise for that resurrection morning. All over the world today, people will gather to celebrate the empty tomb. There were crowds out at the beach today as the sun peeked over the ocean, singing and sharing in celebration. In churches across our land, the largest crowds of the year will gather for worship.
However, as vital as is the empty tomb, there is another factor of the Easter season that is even more important for our Christian life. For equivalent to the empty tomb on this Easter morning is the essential importance of the Calvary Cross.
People don’t tend to want to dwell on the cross, especially at Easter. Easter, for most Americans is a day for bunnies and chocolate eggs. Easter’s a day of joy and celebration. As the Anglo-American poet, W.H.Auden wrote, Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible, it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith. (1)
In the Bible, the apostle Paul stated that truth a different way. For he wrote in First Corinthians that what we preach is "Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to
Gentiles,(2) The Jews could not believe that anyone would preach about the Messiah dying on a cross. After all, the Old Testament said in Deuteronomy that anyone who dies on a cross is cursed by God.(3)
The Gentiles felt that believing in a crucified god was utter foolishness. In fact, the Greek word translated foolishness was moros, from which we get our word "moron."(4) To the western, Gentile mind, one would have to be a moron to preach and believe in a dying savior.
So, it is natural for people to reject the concept of a suffering, bleeding Jesus and the horror of the crucifixion. One outcome of the Protestant Reformation and the separation from the Roman Catholic Church was to remove Christ’s body from the Crucifix. We Protestants stress that our cross is empty.
However, in American society at least, the point came that any reference to Christ’s death on the cross must be clean, inoffensive and attractive. Film Critic Robert Ebert shares that in the movie "King of Kings," made in 1961, Jeffrey Hunter, starring as the Christ, was required to shave his armpits and re-shoot the crucifixion scene, because preview audiences objected to Jesus’ hairy chest and body.(5)
Good Friday services, in which the church commemorates the cross of Christ has a much smaller interest and attendance than will be in churches today for the Easter celebration. People like to come on Easter. The meaning of Easter all like to hear is the empty tomb. However, it is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that is the defining moment in human history.
Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, writes: "Our calendar dates from Jesus’ humble birth. Our hope is in His miraculous resurrection and glorious return. But our salvation rests in His sacrificial death on that old rugged cross, where He atoned for the sins that otherwise would separate us from a holy God. That’s why we call him Savior." (6)
Because of this, I believe it is meaningful on this Easter Sunday morning to consider not only the resurrection, but the cross that hangs in our sanctuary. Because the truth is that the cross of Christ, while empty, is always full. Let’s consider together on this Easter morning the symbolism the cross portrays.
Our sanctuary cross contains five symbols: the golden center, the red border, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion nails, and Pilate’s sign of announcement.
The very center of our cross is gold. This symbolizes the eternal worth and divinity of this one who came for us. This one who died on Calvary was a human man. But he is more than man. That day on that Calvary cross hung the very presence of God in His eternal love.
Jesus was not merely an adopted son. Jesus was and is God incarnate -- the presence of God on earth. Let me repeat that, because the greatest lie that Satan has tried to foster in the mind of humanity is that Jesus was merely a man chosen and used by God for His message. Not True. Jesus was and is God incarnate -- the presence of God on earth.
We’ve considered the Scriptures: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."(7)
There are those today -- just as there were those in that first century -- who deny the divinity of Jesus. But the cornerstone of Christian faith as the Bible describes it, is that "...Christ Jesus who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient (even) unto death, yea, the death of the cross.(8)