Such crosses are not the cross on which Christ was crucified. Crucifixion was a thriving death industry at the time of Christ, in the time of the Romans. They crucified hundreds of people every year, sometimes thousands, for various offenses. The wood of these crosses was imperfectly cut, hastily put together, and not sanded down – making it loaded with fragments and splinters that cut into the already torn flesh of Jesus.
Executioners were not concerned with the comfort of the crucified. They threw the condemned down onto the wood, tied them to it, and in Jesus’ case pounded spikes into his wrists and feet. They then picked up the cross and slammed it jarringly into the hole that would keep it upright until the criminal finally died a slow, agonizing, death by suffocation.
You hang in your homes and in your churches, around your necks and on your wrists a device of torture. Your children and grandchildren draw a method of execution in their artwork. For accuracy, your crosses shouldn’t be so decorative. They should be bare, raw, rough and primitive complete with a few pieces of flesh and splashes of blood on them.
Who does this? Who so prominently displays a torture device like this? Are guillotine necklaces available? AK-47 bracelets? Replicas of atomic bombs to hang in your homes? Who does this? Christians do. You do. Especially this week, Holy Week.
As “the cross,” I can tell you two things: what you are like and what God is like. What you are like is the reason why Christ was on the cross. Got a minute? I’ll try to be kind about this: you, your pastor, everyone who’s ever lived and will yet live – you are by nature dead in sin, enemies of God, blind to spiritual truth, destined for eternity in hell. It only takes a moment to give in to a wicked thought/an evil desire/to give in to selfishness. It only takes a moment to come up with an excuse, a lie, a half-truth, to blame someone else for your own wrong behavior.
God knows them all, even the sins no one else knows anything about. He knows about all the times you said you were motivated by love, but it was really lust or greed or narcissism or selfishness or self-promotion.
The consequences of these many, many moments lasts beyond just the moment. At the foot of the cross these careless moments are called what they really are: sin, rebellion against God, lawlessness, guilt, a one-way ticket to hellfire. “The wages of sin is death.”
The cross of Christ can show you two things: the first is what you are like. It’s easy and proper for sinners to say, “Oh, no, what have we done?” And you wonder, “What will God do?” There at the cross, you also learn what God is like and what he would do.
What God did is Good Friday. God the Father gave up his own Son to pay the price for the sins of the world, for your sins. And the Son went willingly, patiently, undeservedly, like a lamb to slaughter. And he remains there, on the cross. He doesn’t come down, even when taunted. If he does, you die. Not just for a moment or two. Eternally. Then came the darkness, darkness that covered the whole world from noon to 3. Darkness pierced by the stunning, incomprehensible agony of the Son crying out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He didn’t deserve to suffer for you, for all. But he did.
Why? So you would know what love is. The other John 3:16 (1st John 3:16) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Every dictionary should have a picture of a cross by the word love. Every relationship/friendship/family should have the cross front and center because “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
It’s easy to see why I – the cross – am on such prominent display in your church, homes, and lives. I notice also that just about every cross you have and display is empty. As it should be. Because Christ’s work is finished, a glorious celebration awaits you on Sunday. Because the cross is empty, a glorious existence awaits you in eternity.
It is finished,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand