Andy Rogers, Lead Pastor
My daughter’s eyes began to sparkle as she opened a gift my wife and I had given her a couple years ago. As she opened a jewelry box, inside she found a golden cross. One that had been given to Kristen, my wife, years before as she came forward to make a public profession of faith. My daughter was preparing to do the same, lay claim to her faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior and we wanted to give her something to help her remember this milestone in her faith walk.
In order to give her the cross, we had to purchase a new gold chain for it to dangle from. As I shopped a couple jewelers, I was reminded of a story Dr. Steve Seamands, one of my seminary professors, shared about an encounter with a jeweler in Colorado. A shopper came into the jewelry store one day and asked “Do you have any gold crosses?” The jeweler responded, “What kind would you like?” as she pulled out a couple trays. “Do you want a plain one, or one with the little man on it?”
I think that epitomizes perhaps how desensitized we can become to the stark reality of the cross. We like our decorative crosses, don’t we? We hang them on our walls, we wear them as jewelry, we emboss our Bibles with them, we have them prominently displayed in our worship spaces. Some of us even decorate our own bodies with a tattoo of a cross. (And just in case you are curious, I don’t have one yet). The cross has become an endearing religious symbol for those of us that call ourselves Christians.
And yet, when we fix our eyes on the cross, have we somehow forgotten the harsh reality of the cross? For you see the cross was the farthest thing from a religious symbol in the days when the disciples followed Jesus to Jerusalem for the final time and shortly thereafter began to preach as Paul writes in his letter to the church in Corinth,“…but we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1:23) Steve Seamands puts it this way, “Far from being a religious symbol, the cross was shocking, revolting and offensive, a disgusting irreligious symbol if there ever was one.”
The Cross was reserved for the outcasts, law breakers, and those that the Roman empire wanted to make an example of. It was a symbol of shame. It was a symbol of torture. It would be like us putting gas chambers on our church business cards today. Hardly something noble, precious, or endearing. It was from the cross that one would encounter not only horrific sights, but horrific sounds and smells too as people were hung and left to die.
Somehow despite the shame that was looming, the pain that was about to ensue, we find Jesus resolute in heading to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). His disciples would follow Him there. Their eyes were upon the city, his, on the other hand, were upon the cross.
We cannot get to Easter without journeying through Good Friday, the day in which Jesus, beaten, barely clothed, mocked, spat on, and shouted at, would be hung on a cross. In order to fix our eyes upon Jesus, we must fix our eyes upon the cross and reflect on the greatest expression of sacrificial love that could ever be extended.
For upon the cross, we must see what Christ bore. He bore our shortcomings. He bore our sin. He bore our rejection of God. It’s when we look upon the cross that we begin to see NOTsinners in the hands of an angry God, as Jonathan Edwards once penned, but rather God in the hands of angry sinners.
It is when we fix our eyes upon the deeper reality of the cross that we see not only the depth of God’s love for us in spite of our sinfulness, but we also are able to see with clarity that God is one with us in our suffering through Christ upon the cross. We realize that God is not far off and unwilling to get involved with our own pain and suffering, but rather by putting on flesh and enduring the cross, God in Christ shows us that he knows pain first hand.
For you see, without eyes upon the cross, eyes upon an empty tomb has very little meaning.
The author of Hebrews writes: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
This writer is calling us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, Jesus upon the cross. In a way, this week is about us becoming cross eyed, reflective of our great need and of God’s great offer. Grace is free, but it was not cheap.
I am not sure if my daughter, as she looks upon the cross necklace we gave her at this point in her faith walk, realizes the full gravity of the cross or the depth of its power to redeem our sinfulness and suffering. I am not sure I even have come to grips with the deep reality of the cross in my own life and faith walk. My hope and prayer are that she and I, and all of us will come to an ever more enriching understanding of the great love God has for us.
As we continue into Holy Week, I want to invite you to meditate upon the significance of the cross in your own life, in the life of Christians across the world, and really the significance for those that have yet to meet Jesus.
This coming Good Friday, in want to invite you to join us for our Tenebrae service at 7:00 pm as we remember the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. This service is open to all and I encourage you to bring a friend along with you. Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, is a set-apart time to reflect on and give thanks for the grace God’s offered to us upon the cross. Let us all be crosseyed this week.
Grace and Peace,