Summary: The Cross of Christ is unimaginably tragic. Yet, it is also amazingly triumphant! There is pain, but out of that pain will emerge new joy. There is despair, but out of that despair will arise eternal hope!
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CROSS
THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS!
Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007
In the past several weeks, we have explored together the significance of the Preparation For The Cross, The Cost of The Cross: Obedience, last Sunday Pastor Mark so well spoke on The (perceived) “Foolishness” of The Cross, and just this Friday we were reminded of the sobering realities of the Reconciliation of the Cross. Today, it’s Resurrection Morning! Contrary to the many images we commonly see, Jesus is NO LONGER on the cross!
So, why are we still focusing on the cross this morning? Shouldn’t we just be moving on to the empty tomb? Yes, we need to recognize the empty tomb, but FIRST we need to be sure we understand that apart from the cross, apart from Jesus’ sacrificial DEATH on the cross, the empty tomb is next to meaningless. There is much discussion and question today about what really happened on the cross, whether Jesus really died. Why? Because the answer means EVERYTHING!
Let me provide an example. A woman wrote in to a question and answer forum. “Dear Sirs, Our preacher said on Easter, that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think?” Sincerely, Bewildered.
Soon after this reply was posted (by the way, please understand this is a rhetorical reply): “Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear thru his side . . . put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens.” Sincerely, Charles.
Before anyone gets any ideas, let it make it clear: I, Pastor Ellison, Pastor Mark, believe and teach without question that Jesus, the Son of God, Himself died a literal death on a literal cross as the ONLY means of God’s satisfaction of and our salvation from our sin! For this reason, we may gather this morning and celebrate together The Triumph of The Cross!
Yes, the Cross of Christ is unimaginably tragic. Yet, it is also amazingly triumphant! There is pain, but out of that pain will emerge new joy. There is despair, but out of that despair will arise eternal hope! On Friday, April 21, 2000 – Good Friday AND the 1-year anniversary of Columbine - Diana Butler Bass wrote a syndicated newspaper article and a poignant reminder of the lesson of the Passion. She writes:
For those of us who embrace Christianity, this grisly anniversary parallels another tragic
commemoration: Holy Week and its culmination in Easter. . . This year’s eerie correspond-
ence between Columbine and Easter points toward a discomforting aspect of our national
character: We want quick resurrections. American Christianity has never emphasized Holy
Week – a supposedly morbid exercise in churchgoing best left to Lutherans, Episcopalians,
and Roman Catholics. Most American Christians ignore Tenebrae (the service of “darkness”),
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday in favor of Easter celebration. . . .
We celebrate life, not death. We skip the hard part. If we skip the hard part, however,
Easter quickly devolves into a sentimental celebration of spring . . . But we prefer it that way.
Cute baby chicks and new church clothes delude us into thinking that faith is an eternal spring.
After all, Christians are called an “Easter people.” The Resurrection is the basis of
Christian belief. Why dwell on the bad stuff that comes before?
The answer is quite simple: Without death, there can be no resurrection. Winter always
comes before the spring. . . a cold, unrelenting winter. . . The darkness breaks, the snow
melts, and days of sunshine bring forth daffodils and tulips. It is over!
Then, from nowhere, a blizzard closes in as if it were once again December. Will spring
ever come? Will it ever end? (Hmm, I wonder what that feels like?!)
Holy Week is much the same. . . To us, three days seem so short, but to Jesus’ followers
it must have seemed as forever. They did not expect resurrection. . . Resurrections do not
happen quickly. Nor do they arrive on the cue of the calendar, on anniversaries, or while
reporters are watching. . . Healing comes in fits and starts as unexpectedly as spring. . .
We would prefer an instant miracle, jumping over suffering into eternal life. But it just
does not happen that way. Not even for God. Easter faith does not avoid pain. It only
recognizes that somewhere, sometime, in some unexpected way, pain will recede in the
gentle grace of God’s love.1
TAUNTS OF THE UNCERTAIN
Jesus’ presence on the cross was certainly NOT seen as a sign of triumph to those who witnessed it first-hand. Matthew 27:39-46