I grew up in the faith in an American Baptist Church in southwest Ohio. It was, like many such churches, staunchly anti-Catholic. One thing our pastor was always hammering Catholics over was the crucifix.
“Why do they have a crucifix on their walls?” he would ask. “Jesus is no longer on the cross. That’s why we have an empty cross on our wall—to show that Jesus is no longer there.”
Baptists 7, Notre Dame 0.
For a long time I bought that rhetoric. After all, our faith is built around Easter Sunday sunrise services that celebrate the empty tomb. The resurrection is what sets us apart from all other religions whose gods stay in their graves. And come this Sunday you will find me celebrating the risen Christ with a heart filled with laughter and praise.
But let’s not rush past the cross of Good Friday. And let us not be too hasty to dismiss the crucifix. I now disagree with my Baptist pastor. Jesus is not off of the cross. In a very real sense, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world he has always been and always will be dead. And this—the dead Christ—is our hope and our salvation.
In his great first novel, The Life Of Pi, Yann Martel presents us with Piscine, the son of a zookeeper in India. While on vacation with his family, Piscine, a good Hindu, encounters Jesus in a Catholic church. At first, the Christian story is just weird to him.
The first thing that drew me in was disbelief. What? Humanity sins but it’s God’s Son who pays the price? I tried to imagine Father saying to me, “Piscine, a lion slipped into the llama pen today and killed two llamas. Yesterday another one killed a black buck. Last week two of them ate the camel. The week before it was painted storks and grey herons. And who’s to say for sure who snacked on our golden agouti? The situation has become intolerable. Something must be done. I have decided that the only way the lions can atone for their sins is if I feed you to them.”
Yes, Father, that would be the right and logical thing to do. Give me a moment to wash up.
Hallelujah, my son.
But then this weird story makes Piscine angry. He cannot understand how God could encounter death.
That a god should put up with adversity, I could understand. The gods of Hinduism face their fair share of thieves, bullies, kidnappers and usurpers. What is the Ramayana but the account of one long, bad day for Rama? Adversity, yes. Reversals of fortune, yes. Treachery, yes. But humiliation? Death? I couldn’t imagine Lord Krishna consenting to be stripped naked, whipped, mocked, dragged through the streets and, to top it off, crucified—and at the hands of mere humans, to boot. I’d never heard of a Hindu god dying. Brahman Revealed did not go for death. Devils and monsters did, as did mortals, by the thousands and millions—that’s what they were there for. Matter, too, fell away. But divinity should not be blighted by death. It’s wrong. The world soul cannot die, even in one contained part of it. It was wrong of this Christian God to let His avatar die. That is tantamount to letting a part of Himself die. For if the Son is to die, it cannot be fake. If God on the Cross is God shamming a human tragedy, it turns the Passion of Christ into the Farce of Christ. The death of the Son must be real. Father Martin assured me it was. But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected. The Son must have the taste of death forever in His mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. The horror must be real. Why would God wish that upon Himself? Why not leave death to the mortals? Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect?
Martel captures in a few words the essence of Good Friday. The death of Jesus must be a very real death. It cannot be a “semi-death,” as in, “Well, Jesus’ body died, but his spirit lived on.” Jesus either died or he didn’t. And only that which is dead can be brought back to life. If Jesus did not die a complete and full death, then there is no resurrection to celebrate. And, as Martel says, “once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected.” Jesus must always have that taste of death for our sake.
Part of our problem with embracing the dead Jesus is our being creatures of linear time. We see Jesus coming to earth and dying and rising again 2000 years ago. When we try to comprehend that he died for our sins before the world was founded, or that he is still dead for our sins today, we recoil. That does not compute in our linear minds. What happened yesterday is past. What will happen tomorrow is yet to come. Today is all we can really deal with.
So to say something is still happening after thousands of years—that it has happened and is happening and is yet to happen—causes us to grab the TV remote and a beer. It’s just too much to try to figure out. So it’s easier to say that Jesus died in 29 A.D., rose again three days later, and is now in Heaven. Is Easter lunch ready? And who bit the ears off of my chocolate rabbit?
The death of Jesus was not just some transaction that gets us off the hook before the judgment seat. It’s not just our ticket out of hell. Jesus swallowed up death itself in his death. He destroyed the power of sin in his death. Are you hearing this? In his death, Jesus became my death and your death. Death has no more power because Jesus died every death there will ever be. He swallowed death itself. Death is now dead because Jesus died.
We read about the earthquake that shook Jerusalem when Jesus breathed his last, and how that many rose up from their graves and went into the city. The great zombification of Jerusalem was just the first glimpse of what it now means that death is no more. Those who were dead are coming back to life because of Jesus’ death. Jesus’ death trumps all other deaths. “Death is swallowed up in victory” is not just a line to use when preaching a funeral. Death really has been defeated by the cross. I need to know that death has been defeated for all time. That is why I need to see Jesus on the cross for all time.
Robert Capon asks how anÂ omniscientÂ and omnipotent God can forget our sins as we read in Hebrews (For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more, Hebrews 8:12, NIV). Here is his theory. When Jesus died, all of him died, including his mind. His mind became dark, his thoughts ceased to exist. Capon says he can see God placing all of our sins—all sins of the past, the present and the future—into the dead mind of the dead Christ. And when Jesus rose from the dead, the only thing that rose with him was Life. Our sins died when Jesus died. All of our sins. And now we are free to live. Really live. And that is another reason I need to see Jesus still on the cross. I need to know all of my sins—all of them—are dead as well.
Yes, Jesus rose again. Without the resurrection, we are hopeless people. Without the resurrection, Jesus was just another Messiah wannabe. Sure, his teaching was unique, but hardly what you would call successful. He drove away most of those who tried to follow him, and those who stuck with him left him when he was taken before Pilate. We only know of one of his disciples who was present at the crucifixion—John. And John was there with Peter to see the empty tomb. In his resurrection, Jesus showed himself to be very God of very God. Jesus died and rose again: that is our hope and our confession. But let us not forget the first part of that. Jesus died. And let us not rush to take him off of the cross, for it is the cross—the cross filled with the lifeless body of Jesus, not the empty cross that does not force us to face the dead Christ—that has purchased life for us by destroying death.
I know what I’m writing is not what you are used to hearing. It’s offensive for me to refer to the dead Christ. You will no doubt respond with, “You should say, The Christ who died but rose again.” We don’t like to be faced with the crucifix of Friday. We want the empty cross of Sunday. We want a socially-acceptable religion that is as easy to wear as your Easter bonnet. We want an inoffensive theology that will not cause any embarrassment with family and friends. But God does not offer us that choice. To get to him we must come through the death of his Son.
Tomorrow is Good Friday. I will walk through the Stations of the Cross at my church. I will weep until I have no more tears in me at the death of the Son of God, knowing he died to destroy death once and for all. Death that came into the world because of my sin. Mine. The nails that held Jesus to the cross were driven in by my hands. And when he breathed his last breath, he exhaled so that I could breathe now and forever.
Sunday I will celebrate the risen Christ. But for now, I will gaze upon the crucified Christ, and thank him that he will forevermore taste death so that I might live.
54 thoughts on “The Death Of Jesus”
Many years ago, I ran into one or two Christians who didn’t even like the blank Protestant cross. They wore little pendants in the shape of an Empty Tomb.
That pastor friend of yours had better watch out, or he’ll end up preaching Good Friday from Monty Python’s Life of Brian‘s “Look on the Bright Side”.
I am an “evangelical” with an M.A. in New Testament Theology who got fed up with churches that, as Ravi Zacharias said, “look like the inside of an empty refrigerator” (with theological depth to match). At the same time, I was beginning to embrace Lutheran and Calvinistic theology. I came to understand how utterly lacking my previous views were concerning the sacrifice of Jesus, and what His death actually did. I had the same kind of “Jesus is no longer on the cross” theology as you did. My crucifixion theology was limited to John 3:16 and “remembering” His death once a month. Once I realized that His death is actually just as important as His resurrection (and how this was so important to the early church that they had Communion every time they met), I had to start looking around for a new church tradition.
I ended up being drawn toward Anglicanism (at least historic, 39 Articles Anglicanism). At the church I attend now, there is a cross above the altar, but there is a crucifix brought in with the procession. However, Christ on this cross is dressed in the royal garb of the King. Every time I see this particular crucifix it is a tremendous reminder that our King suffered and died.
The passion, death and resurrection… the very first things preached about Christ Jesus. It was preached that he died for our sins so that we might have new life. It was not preached that he was resurrected for our sins.
When I step out of my Catholic bubble it sometimes seems like this event in history is trivialized, especially these days. Because it happened so long ago and He is no longer on the cross. That only good things can come to those who believe.
Actually it works quite the opposite in my life. When I go through a period of intense focus and growth it seems there are many obstacles, distractions, put in my way. And good Friday helps me to remember that Jesus did SUFFER and die. I don’t know if it would be well for me to ever forget that just because he also rose.
My thoughts exactly. I have also wondered what it would look like to have a miniature electric chair or hangman’s noose to wear for the same purpose. Because I believe to early Christians the symbol would’ve have the same effect on them.
Wonderful, Jeff. Thank you.
A crucifix would be a symbol of a failed messiah had he not been resurrected. But as things stand, the crucifixion is where the battle took place and was won. The resurrection is the inevitable result of the battle won at Golgotha and cannot be separated from it.
I drew a colored pencil representation of Jesus on the cross when I was a senior in high school. A classmate of mine (also attended the same church as me at the time) commented that Jesus wasn’t on the cross any longer. Talk about missing the point. Yesterday, I watched a brief video about the president’s Easter prayer breakfast. The first person to pray thanked God that the resurrection reversed Good Friday. Again–missing the point of the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Christ crucified! I sat in church this evening and reflected on the Son of God taking on all our sin at the Cross. Had I authored the story, Jesus would have led a jolly life and died at a ripe old age. He would have been beloved by all and dispensed sage wisdom throughout his well documented, logical life. And he would have been absolutely repelled by sin. Instead we are left with our savior nailed to the Cross, taking on our sin. He saw you and he saw me on that day. I am so glad God is the author of the story – and I have not yet to scale the depths of it.
On Sunday, we will celebrate the hope and joy of the resurrection. But today we meditate on Christ crucified on the Cross.
How can you have a resurrection with a death? How can Jesus defeat death if he never suffers death? How can he open the tombs if he is not laid in one?
Jesus is risen–he is risen indeed. But he is risen from death. And that is why the crucifix is so important.
This discussion needs a dissenter. I’ll volunteer. Your post is not offensive, just wrong. A crucifix is perfect for a Jehovah’s Witness, who commemorates Jesus’s crucifixion, but not his resurrection. To me it is a symbol of a failed Christ, one never resurrected. The empty cross reminds us that He was crucified, but, like the empty tomb, it tells us that He lives.
Yes, that is what I loved about this post. Meeting us in our fear and loathing of death, our helplessness as babies, Jesus is the story this world understands, if we don’t look away.
this passage would be an excellent Difficult Scriptures passage.
Good point. I heard a fairly recent contemporary Christian song which was definitely heavy on the latter – Jesus died because of me. We tend to think guilt will lead people to Christ in a meaningful way, but it is just another play on emotions – cruelty in the case of someone struggling with depression. I know someone will decry this as therapeutic spirituality, but it’s not.
One can take the message of the crucifix either as “He died _for_ me,” which elicits gratitude, or “He died _because_ of me,” which elicits guilt. It seems to me that churches tend to stress one or the other. Some practices of Roman Catholicism (such as I observed in Latin America) see the crucifix more as evidence of man’s guilt than God’s love.
Likewise, Paul. Welcome home. I’ve been on this side of the river four four years. Reconciliation is a wonderful grace and is the beginning of an exciting journey for you.
A lot of what we do is more anti-Catholic than out of good doctrine. Why is the image of a crucified Christ on the cross more idolatrous than the empty cross? When Paul says in 1Corinthians1 that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” he is not talking about the empty cross itself—and in fact a few verses later he says, “We preach Christ and him crucified.”
About the anti-Catholic knee-jerk: I have an Ecuadorian friend who refuses to have candles in the house, not because of fire hazard but because they remind him of his Catholic upbringing. He has become more evangelical than Billy Graham. But on the other hand, I do understand where he’s coming from: In Latin America, almost the only time you’ll see Christ portrayed, either in painting or in sculpture, is when he is dead on the cross (or) as a baby in the arms of Mary. And the image of Mary is everywhere, everywhere, as if she were the savior. When Christ is portrayed, he is helpless, either dead or a baby.
So I do understand why the crucifix with the dead Jesus is shunned, but why not the bare cross too? Why is that any less idolatrous?
Mostly because it’s what we’re used to, and because it isn’t Roman Catholic.
Over 30 years after leaving the Catholic church and receiving Christ as my own and becoming VERY Protestant God brought me back to something I had totally turned my back on. The crucifix. I was shocked as He taught me that the cross without the suffering and sacrifice is meaningless. And yes, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He taught me that the nice neat Evangelical Protestant cross was not His cross. So I immediately went and purchased a crucifix (never say never) and it hangs on my wall. And every morning it is the first thing I see and at night it is the last. And my heart is filled with grief and gratitude. Funny, one day I had to be in the emergency room of our local hospital. Upon arriving home a neighbor came over to check on me. I was laying down in the bedroom where the crucifix is. She said she was surprised by the fact that I had a “Catholic cross.” I told her that she wasn’t as surprised as I was. But her reference to it being a Catholic cross was interesting. No – it is God’s cross. Thank you Jesus.
I like your interpretation better, Anna. Have a wonderful Easter!
I’ve always interpreted this passage as the tombs were opened during the earthquake, but the people didn’t return to life until the power of the Resurrection overflowed and touched them as well.
But, I do wonder what happened to them, did they surrender their lives again, and die or were part of the first fruits of the Resurrection?
Paul, I read the most recent posts on your blogs and will read more later. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!
Welcome to the Roman Catholic Church, Paul! Have a wonderful Easter and I hope your first year as Catholics will be a fulfilling, Jesus-centered year for you and your wife. There is so much beauty and variety within the Church. I hope you keep learning, loving, living within the Holy Spirit of God.
“The distinction is all the more clearly to be kept in mind because it is, on the face of it, an entirely irrational distinction. The sort of Evangelical who demands what he calls a Living Christ must surely find it difficult to reconcile with his religion an indifference to a Dying Christ; but anyhow one would think he would prefer it to a Dead Cross. To salute the Cross in that sense is literally to bow down to wood and stone; since it is only an image in stone of something that was made of wood. It is surely less idolatrous to salute the Incarnate God or His image; and the case is further complicated by the relation of the image to the other object. If a man were ready to wreck every statue of Julius Caesar, but also ready to kiss the sword that killed him, he would be liable to be misunderstood as an ardent admirer of Caesar. If a man hated to have a portrait of Charles the First, but rubbed his hands with joy at the sight of the axe that beheaded him, he would have himself to blame if he were regarded rather as a Roundhead than a Royalist. And to permit a picture of the engine of execution, while forbidding a picture of the victim, is just as strange and sinister in the case of Christ as in that of Caesar.” – G.K. Chesterton.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of deathâ€”that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abrahamâ€™s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:14-18.
“But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected. The Son must have the taste of death forever in His mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. The horror must be real.”
This is such a profound observation. I have said it before that a crucifix reveals more about the God we worship than any other. As I think others have already mentioned, the picture we see in Revelation is not that of a powerful. Valhalla-like deity hurling thunderbolts, but a lamb – not just a lamb, but one who was slain. What terrifies the evil spirits is that God in utter weakness annihilated death and all the power of darkness.
Those who are suffering pain or going through great trials may have more connection with a slain God than a victorious, all-powerful, prosperous, health-and-wealth, best-life-now diety.
Balance is always the key. I, too, once criticized Catholics for not just images of Christ on the cross but images of the infant Jesus (i.e. Jesus is no longer a baby). What I have learned from my Catholic friends is that it isn’t a matter of de-emphasizing the resurrection or the ascension but to keep in perspective all aspects of the incarnation at all times. Putting away images of the infant Jesus or the crucifix causes us to drift into gnostic, manichean waters. This is also why the creeds are so important; it forces us to reflect on the whole rather than obsessing on one or two isolated details.
This topic reminded me of a book I’m reading: The Theology of the Pain of God by Kazoh Kitamori. It deals a lot with the importance and the implications of God suffering and dying. It is a very dense book with a lot of deep concepts in it (being translated from Japanese also doesn’t help). Still, I would recommend it.
Is this what you mean by the ‘harrowing of hell’?
“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: â€œMy Lord be with you allâ€. Christ answered him: â€œAnd with your spiritâ€. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: â€œAwake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you lightâ€.”
Paul, your words are encouraging more than I can say. Thank you so much for what you have shared!
That was AWESOME!!!
As my wife and I enter our first Eucharist service this weekend as soon to be Catholics (it’s finally here), this piece hit me hard.
Last night after a long day, we did the sacrament of reconciliation, our first time ever. I was so nervous and apprehensive, we made a private appointment. I couldn’t even speak correctly, much less remember anything I needed to say (I’m sure at some point this will all be funny). With a gracious Priest we got through it, and yet not until I read this did all of it finally all come together. Maybe I’m overstating the case because of my emotions, but I feel complete and forgiven for the first time in many years. After hearing the victory of the cross for so long, this, the brutal death and defeat of the cross is what finally brought it all home to a personal level.
This site, and the legacy that Michael left behind has become something that over the past year and a half has had more impact than any church ever had on me. And ultimately it led me finally to Rome, I know Michael had issues with some aspects of Catholicism. But he was honest enough about it, that I decided to see for myself, and Sunday our true journey will begin.
What you do here matters, it impacts lives and pieces like this are a true blessing.
Thank you so much for everything, the whole team here does.
We cannot thank you enough.
“great zombification of Jerusalem”
I bet those words have never been written before, Jeff! I do find that to be an interesting passage. Matthew 27:51-53 says in the NIV, ” At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesusâ€™ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” This makes it sound like the people were raised from the dead just as Jesus died, but they didn’t come out of the tombs until after Jesus’ resurrection. So from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, what did they do? Play a few games of cards? Talk about what will be the first food they will eat as soon as they get back home? I am being a little silly, but this passage does leave me wondering. Not that it really matters. What matters is that Jesus died and that he was resurrected with a new kind of body. And he promises that his disciples will live with him forever. Amen!
Sorry–I looked up 2 Peter, which is why I was having trouble placing this. This would make a good Difficult Scriptures passage sometime, don’t you think?
I was born in Lebanon, raised in Centerville. My cousin’s husband is fire chief in Waynesville.
I see lots of crucifixes on chains around folk’s necks and lots of beautiful crosses that they wear, as well.
I often wondered about having a small casket made to wear on a chain, with a lid that opens and closes.
People would ask about it and you could tell them how, because of Jesus, no grave can hold us.
Steve Newell (see below) called it. From 1 Peter 3: “18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[d] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.”
At least some derive from this that Jesus, in spirit, preached to souls in Hell while he was between death and resurrection.
I’m from Waynesville, which is very close to Centerville of course.
Excellent observation from a writer, HUG…
Nice post, Jeff! Ironically, I was just considering purchasing a crucifix ring before surfing on over here
I like it!
Yet Penal Substitutionary Atonement — especially when preached as a guilt-manipulation horror show — can also paint God as a bloodthirsty and vicious Tyrant, a cosmic Baba Saddam. That’s how it ended up being preached to me during my time in-country.
And the name alone smacks of those Letter-by-Letter Theological Parsings that get spun to great heights (and flying Anathemas) while pastors’ widows eat out of dumpsters.
And from a purely storytelling POV, the darkness of Good Friday is needed to show contrast with the light of Easter. The darkness of Death contrasts with the light of Resurrection Life. You can only see a mountain when it differs from the valleys around it. You need a real threat and real darkness to bring out real heroism.
Penal substitutionary atonement is a highly offensive teaching. I love it when liberals object to it because it paints God to be vindictive and barbaric. Every time I hear that I think, boy, these lefties understand the gospel better than many evangelicals. The atonement was bloody and violent, and this is the gospel. My sins really are forgiven! All of them! If the death of Christ was more pleasant I would have cause to doubt the fullness of His payment for my debt. I suppose a crucifix is a reminder of the debt that has been fully paid. It is a symbol of hope for those who are tormented by their own guilt. And the empty cross is a reminder for those who grow weary that our life is in Christ, and He is our strength.
And that even for an atheist like him, these shocking implications (and their side effects) were not going to be a good thing.
I once read a Good Friday essay that started with the most unlikely of theologians – Nieztsche. The author’s point was that while Nietszche hated Christianity, his famous “we have killed god” passage understood the shocking implications of God dying while many Christians take it for granted.
Fantastic thoughts. I have a similar post on my blog set to go up tomorrow morning for Good Friday.
A pastor friend of mine always says he prefers happy, rock-pop contemporary worship music to hymnic worship. “All those hymns make worship feel like a funeral. Worship’s not a funeral!” he says.
But on Good Friday, that’s EXACTLY what it is.
In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, one of the responses is “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death. Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.”
The first reading for today (Maundy Thursday) Mass of the Lord’s Supper was from Exodus, and this verse struck me as I listened:
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. ”
Not alone is Jesus the Passover lamb, but He is also the firstborn who died (whether you hold with we Catholics and the Orthodox that Mary had no other children, or whether you’re one of the Protestant denominations who say that He had brothers and sisters, He was the firstborn son of His mother). There’s something there, but I haven’t dug it out yet. Anyone want to run with this?
If there is a symbol for costly grace, as Bonhoeffer called it, it’s the crucifix. It’s a vivid reminder of Paul’s rhetorical question in Romans 6: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3).
A few verses later, Paul says: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:8-11).
Bonhoeffer got it right: “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. it is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship,” 89).
.What matters isn’t the cross itself, but the Christ crucified on it, and this is the Christ who bids us follow him. A crucifix is a reminder that “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Another way of looking at this: What does the empty cross tell someone who’s life experience may be characterized by Good Friday? Is it a symbol of Christ’s absence, or presence?
Yet another way of looking at this: Does a crucifix really do a good job of reminding us that Christ has risen? I’m not so sure.
Maybe it would be a good idea for Protestant churches to borrow Catholic crucifixes for Good Friday, and for Roman Catholic churches to borrow empty Protestant crosses for Easter. This would be a great ecumenical gesture, and it seems to me that it would be a great way of getting the meaning of the cross right!
Without realizing the full impact of the death of Christ, we are in reality denying his humanity. Without his humanity we have no idea of what salvation really cost God and our Saviour. And just as you said, without his death, the resurrection is little more than a mystical event and not real at all. The crucifix is difficult to look at, as it should be. We skip it to our own detriment.
“Part of our problem with embracing the dead Jesus is our being creatures of linear time.”
Linear time makes it hard to grasp eternal truths. The same is true of the resurrection of the dead, and New Heaven and New Earth. Is it now, or is it future? It’s part of the mystery of God’s plan and our theology may never figure it out.
We cannot have Christianity with the dead and bloody man handing on a cross for our sins. Every Sunday, we need to hear that Christ has died for our sins and it our sins that put him there.
How many churches no longer have crosses?
Jeff and Jeff:
In the Apostle’s Creed states that
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
This is what the first Jeff is referring to.
Excellent piece. Sadly, it brings back sad memories of arrogant statements, in the Baptist church that I attended, about the crucifix. I remember Paul’s words coming to mind: “…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness…”
Not sure how you are connecting this passage in Peter to the death of Christ, Jeff.
And where in Ohio did you grow up? (My church was in Centerville.)
Thank you Jeff. Very thoughtful and moving.
Do you believe in something like the “harrowing of hell”? And what do we do with I Peter 3:18-20?
From one who grew up in the faith in a Church of Christ in southwest Ohio.