Tuesday, March 04, 2008

An Empty Cross

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross be emptied of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17)

The testimony of faith is that no matter how things look in this fallen world, all God’s acts are wrought in perfect wisdom . . . The atonement too was accomplished with the same flawless skill that marks all God’s acts. However little we understand it all, we know that Christ’s expiatory work perfectly reconciled God and men and opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. Our concern is not to explain, but to proclaim. Indeed I wonder whether God could make us understand all that happened on the cross. According to the apostle Peter not even angels know, however eagerly they may desire to look into these things. (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 68)

We celebrate an empty cross. Jesus absent, no longer hanging there. Protestant churches rarely display a crucifix. Hard to find are images in which the dead or dying Jesus remains suspended in the shame and humiliation of the cross. No, we celebrate an empty cross. The empty cross silently proclaims resurrection. With a touch of boasting we say, “Our cross is empty because Jesus is alive.” True enough.

But sometimes our delight in the empty cross leaves us with an “emptied” cross. Like those friends of Jesus who hurried to remove his body before sunset ushered in the Sabbath, we too hurry to take his body down, wrap it up, place it in the tomb. We do this by our reluctance to linger at the site of execution. Something is rushing us to the tomb, to Easter.

And we do this with our explanations. A. W. Tozer wisely reminds us of two things that shape our praying today. First, the event of the cross was God’s wisdom. It wasn’t error or things gone wrong. As Paul stated it, the wisdom of God is foolishness to us. Second, our task is not to explain it. When we seek to understand the cross by use of our own wisdom, we end up with an emptied cross – drained of power, a mere symbol. It doesn’t actually do anything.

For Today:
Tozer says our concern is not explanation, but proclamation. How would you explain the cross if a friend asked you about it? In the course of a typical day, what does it mean for us to “proclaim” the cross?

Prayer:
Gracious God, your wisdom is beyond our explaining. So let us live this day in such way that the cross is proclaimed. Let our lives say clearly that forgiveness is more powerful than vengeance, that your grace matters more than our good intentions and best efforts to please you, that even in suffering you are present. May we proclaim the cross clearly and not empty it of power. Amen

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