In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
I wanted to share an interesting story with you. This week I was tasked by Khouria Jennifer with the important work of getting her van inspected. So I drove around town for a little while and found a nice little auto shop that would do the inspection. Upon walking in and talking to the owner of the place for a few seconds he asked. “Why do you wear that cross? Don’t you know that Jesus is no longer on the cross?”
I was caught of guard. I looked down at my cross for a moment and was nearly dumbfounded. “Why yes it is true that Jesus is no longer on the cross,” I replied. “But I wear the cross because it signifies the most important event in the history of the world.” He looked up at me and replied “well, I think the resurrection is the most important event.”
So this was an interesting debate and one that we don’t tend to have very often. But let’s think about this for a moment. Is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ an important event? No doubt! But let’s think through this further….Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He shares in everything that is proper and natural to God the Father and one of those attributes is immortality. We know that Jesus Christ is fully divine right? If we know that Christ Our Lord is fully divine, why are we surprised by the resurrection? It surprised the disciples because they didn’t know the Lord’s identity fully. But the resurrection doesn’t surprise us because we expect God to rise from the dead. He is full of life so how can He possibly stay in the grave? Yes the resurrection is the most important event but that is directly due to it’s intimate connection with the crucifixion.
I went on explaining to this man that it is indeed the crucifixion which is the center of all human history. It is the crucifixion that redeems us from sin. It is the crucifixion that heals our wounds. It is the crucifixion that allows us to be saved. It is the grace of the crucifixion that opens up the possibility of become sons and daughters of the Most High God. The resurrection is about life and life is the natural state of an immortal God! But to allow Himself to be put to death is truly amazing! We know the love of God for His people primarily through the crucifixion of His Son Jesus.
At this point the man began to second-guess himself and probably regretted starting the conversation with me. But I continued further by turning to the Apostle Paul who wrote “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him resurrected.” Only that’s not what St. Paul actually said. What he actually said was “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” 1 Cor 2:2. But St. Paul says even more about this when he writes “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” 1 Cor 1:22.
It’s not that the resurrection isn’t amazing and important. It is both amazing and important and we rejoice and celebrate the Holy Resurrection of Christ like we celebrate nothing else on earth….but we celebrate only within the proper context. We journey through Holy Week first, and then we are greeted by Pascha. For St. Paul and the rest of the disciples the heart of their preaching was Christ crucified. It is so because it is the image of Christ upon the cross that demonstrates God’s sacrificial love for us.
“Father, why does any of this matter?” Well it matters because modern Christianity would like to share in the glory of Jesus Christ without any of the struggle. The way of the ancient church and by extension, the Orthodox Church is that first we have to struggle, first we have to die to ourselves, first we have to be crucified with Christ in order that we may truly live. We journey through Holy Week to arrive at Pascha!
It’s not enough that we only think about the crucifixion during Holy Week. We have accepted to follow Christ and there are no shortcuts to that road. That road must lead to crucifixion before it finds the resurrection. If it was true for Christ, it is most certainly true for us.
So what does that mean for us today? First, don’t be ashamed of the cross of Christ. Make sure you have crosses in your homes. Make sure you make the sign of the cross before any important task, but more importantly, make sure you allow the cross to affect your choices and behaviors. Take a moment to think daily about the ways that you can die to yourself and help others. Take time to think about what it means to sacrifice for others and love others. Think about the ways that we can demonstrate the humility of Christ upon the cross. How can we put ourselves below others? For every way that we find to lower ourselves, we will find that the Lord blesses us and allows us to join Him raised in the glory of the resurrection.
Above all else, take your crosses with courage. Don’t try to take shortcuts to God. Walk the road of crucifixion and you will be victorious with Christ who also walked this road all the way to the resurrection. And Glory be to God Forever AMEN.