The cross is undoubtedly the most recognized Christian symbol. Easter has just passed and churches around the world celebrated the power of the cross. On Facebook, I read dialogues and comments regarding the preferences evangelical Christians have for an empty cross versus Catholics preference for a visual of Jesus hanging on the cross.
I grew up in an evangelical stream, so I’m more familiar and comfortable with an empty cross but as I contemplated it again, I wondered if the empty cross is an invitation to share in Christ’s death so we may also share in his resurrection (Romans 6:5). Because unless our sin nature dies, we cannot have any part of Christ’s inheritance because no one can see God’s face and live (Exodus 33:20). Therefore we must die, and the empty cross is the invitation to do so.
Of course, we are speaking spiritually, not physically. Christ’s sacrifice was enough to satisfy the curse of sin (Hebrews 10:14), and he now is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:3). If there was still work to do, he would be standing as would be the priests who served in the temple.
When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, he talked about being reborn. How can one be reborn without the first life passing away? 1 Corinthians 5:17 says we are a new creation, the old man is gone; in other words - dead. We are reborn into the spirit and live by the spirit – as Jesus did. This is the invitation of the empty cross.
Easter messages are full of God’s love and sacrifice through the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s an important message – central, in fact, to our faith. We will never reach the end of God’s love for us and there will always be more to understand about his love. Equally important is to understand we were co-crucified with Christ, by faith, so we are also co-raised and co-seated with Christ, by faith.
When we enter into a relationship with Christ, we are defined by everything he does. Just as he identified with our humanness, we identify with his death and resurrection, so we may share in his heavenly inheritance. What exactly does it mean, to share in his death and also share in his resurrection?
Dead men don’t sin, and resurrected men are held back by nothing. A seed can’t produce unless it dies to itself so new life can grow and reproduce an exponentially increased harvest. The empty cross is an invitation to do it.
The cross is more than a symbol to the suffering of Christ, it is also an invitation to us to be co-crucified with Christ, in order that we may be co-raised with him and seated in heavenly places.