The Astonishing Cross

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

CrossAs Good Friday approaches next week, it is worth the time to stop for a moment and reflect on the Cross. Good Friday is a day of celebration that reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, and more personally for our sins if we are Christians. And while some churches have Good Friday Services, much of Christendom will skip them and just go to Easter Sunday. Sometimes this skipping of the Cross has increasingly turned into a problem for the Faith because without the Cross there is no real Church, no redemption and surely no Empty Tomb. The centrality of the Cross totally changed the Apostle Paul and led him to say in I Corinthians 2:2,
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
The Apostle Paul realized that everything in life was and is somehow tied to the Cross. He made it his life's mission to know and proclaim Christ crucified and how that old, rugged Cross revealed the heart of the Lord to our world. As Good Friday draws near, let's take a fresh look at the Cross and how the Lord has placed it at the center of everything in our lives today, whether we understand it or not.
The most basic message of Good Friday and the Cross is that all life comes out of death. That basic truth is foundational to every moment of our lives. Everywhere you look you see this pattern working itself out. Something must die for something to live. This basic principle of the Lord's world is seen in every meal we eat. When we eat a meal, even if we are vegetarians, something had to die for us to live. It might be a chicken, a cow, a turkey or some kind of animal, but we can't live a day without something dying for us. So, in a basic way, our food and nutrition cycle is a story of how death brings forth resurrection or new life. Our bodies are amazing chemical factories that metabolize death to sustain our life. So, while much of the world may not be in a Good Friday service next week, the Lord has not let us escape the witness of the Cross and how our physical lives are sustained by the death of our food. With that thought in mind, perhaps we can understand now how our Lord Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life in John 6:35 and why our Lord spoke about His death bringing forth life and resurrection to us in John 12:4 when He said,
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
Another place we see the power of the Cross is on the day we were born. Every child's life comes out of their mother's sacrifice and blood shed for them. Some mothers even die in childbirth so that a new life can come forth. This powerful principle of life coming out of sacrifice and death is seen throughout a child's life, not just their birth. Parents work hard and make huge sacrifices for their children to have a good life. The stories of parental love and sacrifice for their children's life and blessing would fill untold volumes.   

This foundational principle of the Cross continues on and through every area of life. Take for example just driving your car to church for Good Friday services. Most of us drive a car that uses gasoline, rubber tires and goes over a road and highway system largely made from asphalt. These are all products that come from oil. All oil is derived from dead plants that came out of the ground, dare I say were resurrected. In other words, you can't drive a car anywhere without turning death into life. Oil has been the life blood, literally, of our entire modern age of transportation and technology from cars to jets. And yet, without the death of something, nothing would live.

Without death there also wouldn't be a building industry. Every wood product in every house in America comes from trees. That is also true for many of our paints and wood finishes. All trees come out of death. The strongest hardwood used in any new floor or building started out as a little, dead seed. Every board of oak lumber started out as a little acorn that died and was buried in the ground. And if you try to replace wood with synthetic or man-made products, they largely come from plastics that again are from oil. So, no matter how you try to escape this principle of the Cross, you find that it is right there looking at you. The Lord has an amazing way to surround us with His love story of Good Friday.

If we leave the natural world for a moment, and turn to the nations of the world, we see the Cross as the defining principle of their founding and existence. This is true because every nation was established and maintained as the result of someone else's sacrifice. All nations come out of sacrifice and death. In America, our nation was birthed on July 4, 1776 and came into existence as the result of the Revolutionary War with Britain. That war cost the lives of thousands of people. All the rest of our wars were paid for by the lives of our military and the sacrifice of others, and we see their crosses landscape our Nation's cemeteries here and around the world. It was their deaths that ultimately brought us our Nation, our freedoms and our lives as Americans. That is why the main Biblical text read at many military funerals is from John 15:13 which says,
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
Without the principle of the Cross and all life coming out of such sacrifice and death, America would not exist, nor any other nation for that matter.

And finally, if you turn your eyes to the sky each day you can see the Cross moving across the sky every 24 hours. Each day we see a death of the Sun as it sets in the west, only to be followed by Resurrection in the east the next morning. All the brightness and warmth of the Sun comes from the sacrifice, dying or burning of billions of tons of hydrogen each second in order to bring forth light and warmth that sustains every second of life here on earth. Once again, the Sun teaches the lesson that new life always comes out of death. That cycle cannot be changed or broken as it gloriously points to our Lord's Cross and how it wonderfully brought Resurrection and life to the Lord's people.

And while we could go on and on, the glorious Cross remains the unifying theme of the entire Universe. When we begin to see the Cross everywhere and in everything we do, we cannot just relegate it to a religious service on Good Friday, a piece of jewelry around our neck or on a church steeple. Good Friday and the Cross are life itself. We can never leave that truth. Once we see this glorious truth we begin to glory in the Cross as the Apostle Paul did in his ministry. In the Cross we see our God and His heart for this world and every true believer.

May this Good Friday season change us all somehow. May every church and every Christian lift high that astonishing Cross, as our Lord told us to do (John 12:32) and watch the Lord of Creation draw this fallen world to Himself today and forever more.