Nested between two celebrations, Palm Sunday and Easter, was a day of devastation. The day was Friday when Jesus was arrested, tried and sentenced to be crucified. A day that would be the center point of the Christian Life. But it seems out of line and a little twisted to be celebrating the horror of a crucifixion; I think that is the point, the celebration comes before and after the crucifixion; we are called to remember a horrific day in order to fully celebrate the day of Easter.
Death by crucifixion was something that was so traumatic and repulsive, people could barely stomach the event let alone celebrate it. The Romans had perfected crucifixion as a means to detour rebellion in the hearts of the people they would rule. Crucifixion was excessively brutal, repulsive to all the senses, and demoralizing for all who would see it; in fact, a Roman citizen would never be crucified because crucifixion was reserved for criminals and the enemies of Rome. Crucifixion always resulted in death. It is understandable as to why people within the first century would see a celebration associated with a crucifixion as a twisted idea, it is that is why we are called to remember. Otherwise, God’s redemptive story is dismissed, brushed-over and ultimately redefined.
I believe that our ability to celebrate Easter is directly related to how we embrace the cross. Granted, we put crosses on the wall, if they are wood we sand, stain, and varnish them. Crosses are beautiful decorations in the church and serve to gently and romantically remind us that Jesus died on a cross; but we still miss the point, and consequently, distance ourselves from the heart crushing impact of the cross.
The cross is not just about Jesus it is about each and every one of us because “Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). And again, “He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). If Jesus went to the cross to die, should we not approach the cross in the same manner?
The first century Christians had no problem seeing the cross as a symbol of their own death. Paul would write: “The death he [Jesus] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus…. offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life… (Romans 6:10-13)
Jesus could only be resurrected after he had died. The same is true for us. Our ability to celebrate a resurrected life of not only Jesus but our own this Easter is contingent on embracing our own death at the cross so that we can live a new life in Christ. It is impossible to live an old and a new life at the same time. Let us remember what was and celebrate the new life that is in Jesus our Lord and Savior.
By His Grace