In this month of March, we continue in the season of Lent and a series of sermons entitled “The Way of the Cross”. I just came from a men’s breakfast, and we talked about our recognition of the cross as the focal point of our Christian faith. I’m that pastor who consumes books, and there is one that I’ve read before, but am reading again because of its powerful message.
John Fisher is a contemporary Christian musician who writes about the church’s relationship to the cross in a book entitled On a Hill Too Far Away.
The book begins with a visit to a church in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Within that church stands a cross, not some dainty decoration behind the chancel area, but a ten foot tall one that is bolted down into the concrete floor only three feet away from where the preacher stands in the pulpit. The words of the preacher must pass through it, and the congregation cannot escape viewing the cross throughout the entire service.
Mr. Fisher writes about how we have domesticated the cross. Most of the crosses we encounter are harmless. They dangle from ears or wrists, they sit atop steeples of beautiful churches. We seem to have made the cross a sentimental religious ornament.
If I think too much about the cross, I have to think about something we modern day preachers don’t talk about as much as our forefathers in the faith did. If I think about the cross, I have to think about SIN and my own inability to do anything about it. Our preaching is so often more psychological advice than it is the proclamation of the cross. On the day that I write this article, I went to my computer to discover that Billy Graham died at the ripe old age of 99. Billy Graham was NEVER ashamed of the proclamation of the cross. He preached the truth of the cross and millions responded.
Mr. Fisher says that in order to make the gospel more appealing we have changed the blatant red to a more user friendly mauve. We don’t fix on the fact that that was a real man with real emotions experiencing the most horrible pain imaginable. But even MORE painful was the spiritual and emotional pain of being separated from His Father because of His carrying the sins of the world.
Michael Card wrote: “The cross was the only moment in all eternity when Jesus was separated from the Father. They had always been ONE. But now, quite unimaginably, They were separated by our sin. Jesus cried out, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ precisely because God DID forsake Him there. As the pure and spotless Lamb of God became sin for you and me, the Father had to look away, for the Bible tells us that His eyes are too holy to look upon sin. On the cross, for the only time in eternity, the Father took His eyes off the Son, as the Son’s tear-filled eyes looked for the Father.”
The holiness of The One who was bleeding on that cross was so evident that even the Roman Centurion who stood by the cross was converted by the sight. Seeing how He died, hearing His words of forgiveness, this man who represented the enemy KNEW that this was MOST CERTAINLY the Son of God. “Perhaps then, He is a king” he thought. “Perhaps His kingdom is not of this world and He is even now going to His kingdom. Yes, that is it! His kingdom is in heaven. Truly, this was the Son of God.” (J. Eugene White)
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Let’s Come and Worship Him,