When you think of the cross, what do you think about?
If you ask some people that question, they think about a cross on the top of a church steeple or an ornate gold cross on an altar at the front of a church sanctuary. Some might think of a piece of jewelry that hangs around your neck. Others think about a wood or metal cross they might carry in their purse or pocket, almost for good luck or fortune.
When you think of the cross, what do YOU think of?
As we are in the midst of the highest Holy Week of the church year, at the conclusion of the Lenten period of preparation, we are faced with the reality of the cross.
And when I think of the cross, I think of sacrifice. Sacrifice… what an interesting term.
Webster defines it as “an act of offering to deity something precious.” Oftentimes in our culture, we will use the term without respect to deity, but by that we mean “giving up something of value to gain something of even greater value.”
We sacrifice the “good life” so our kids can have an even better life. We will sacrifice a quiet evening at home to attend a school play or concert when our children are participating in them. We will sacrifice a time of family vacation so that we can attend our child’s baseball or other sports competition, for example.
For the sake of peace in the family, I will periodically sacrifice an evening of tightly holding the TV remote control in my fist to allow my bride the opportunity to watch what she wants – for a change ( only for an evening, mind you!). And sometimes, we will sacrifice going to one of our regular restaurant haunts in favor of another restaurant preferred by the majority of the people we may plan to join for dinner.
One couple I know even has even sacrificed the joy of the “empty nest” years and grandparenthood to allow their grown and married daughter, her husband and her new baby to move in with them so that the young family could save enough for a down payment on a home.
But when it comes to the Easter season, the cross and the term “sacrifice” together take on a very spiritual and powerful meaning. The sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross at Calvary signifies the payment once for all that Jesus made on the cross for your sins and for mine. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
In a book entitled Peace Child, author Don Richardson records the moving account of how the Sawi people of Irian Jaya came to understand salvation through Jesus Christ.
These remote people were very suspicious of outsiders, and did not trust others quickly. For many months Richardson and his family, having moved into the area where the Sawi called home, sought for some way to communicate the Gospel to this tribe.
Then they discovered the key for which they had been praying. All demonstrations of kindness expressed by the Sawi were regarded with suspicion except one act. If a father gave his own son to the enemy, his sacrificial deed showed that he could be trusted!
Furthermore, everyone who touched that child was brought into a friendly relationship with the father. The Sawi were then taught that in a similar way God’s beloved Son could bring them eternal peace. God gave His own Son to all mankind, even the Sawi, thereby showing that He could be trusted.
And anyone who reaches out to Jesus in faith trusting Him alone will be brought into a friendly, loving relationship with the Father.
The Easter message then is one of sacrifice – but one also of ultimate victory. For, you see, the story does not end at the cross.
Three days later, Jesus arose from the dead! The tomb is empty, and God has assured us through the resurrection of Jesus Himself that death holds no power over us!
Quite frankly, one question that has always plagued my mind and heart is “Why do they call it ‘Good’ Friday?” Wasn’t that the day we ‘celebrate’ Jesus dying?
But that is the very point, isn’t it? Without ‘Good’ Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday. Without Jesus’ death, we could not celebrate indeed Jesus’ resurrection!
But even more than that… Easter is about much more than the cross. It is about the resurrection! And it is about the resurrection that you and I experience when we believe in and trust Jesus with our very lives. God loved you and me so much that He gave His only Son that whoever (that means you and I!) believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life and victory!
And hear me … Every time someone new hears and believes in Jesus’ message even today, it becomes Easter all over again!
How about you?
Happy Resurrection Day!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.