“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:2
There are many strong opinions regarding crosses which display Christ upon them (Crucifixes). For many people, particularly in Protestant camps, the image of Christ upon the cross makes them uncomfortable at the least and angry at the most. For some it is simply because that is “too Catholic” and since the Reformation, there are various denominations who will do things simply because it sets them apart from the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, there is another reaction to seeing Christ’s flayed body hanging there crudely upon the cross. It goes something like this, “Well Jesus is no longer on the cross,” or, “Jesus rose,” or, “Jesus lives and therefore the cross is empty.” Therefore, the conclusion some come to is that there should be no crucifix’s whatsoever, especially within the sanctuary.
I understand these arguments, and even some of the anger/frustration, yet I think they are misguided, and quite frankly, incorrect. There is a lot of theological beauty that is confessed by a Crucifix that directs us to know Christ and Him crucified. In the Gospel of Mark, there is an overwhelming sense that no one truly understands who Jesus is. Even when the disciples came close, like Peter and his confession that “Jesus is the Christ,” shortly after that moment it is apparent that Peter still doesn’t understand. When Jesus goes on to tell them about his death and resurrection, Peter objects and Jesus rebukes him. They don’t understand. Yet, at the culmination of Mark’s Gospel comes a profound clarity of confession and realization. It is there, at the place of the skull, where an unexpected person speaks, the centurion at the foot of the Cross looks up at Jesus, flayed, bloody, and dead, and he cries out “Surely this man was the Son of God!” It was only after Jesus was dead on the cross that this man knew who Jesus truly was. It wasn’t in the glory of Christ’s transfiguration, it wasn’t after Jesus performed many miracles or after he spoke with authority and wisdom. No, it was his lifeless body, after all had been accomplished which revealed his glory.
Yet, this isn’t the only instance where Christ is only known by his death. In the Gospel of John Thomas is not so certain that Christ has been raised from the dead. When he finally sees Jesus, Jesus points to the stigmata, the marks of his crucifixion which draws the confession from the lips of Thomas “My Lord and my God!” We choose to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, for it is only through Christ’s crucifixion that we know who he is. So, we continue to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. For it was there, on the cross where Christ finished His work. It was there on the cross, where God hung bloody and dead that death was defeated, where hell was conquered, and where sin was no more. So, like Paul, we choose to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.
Therefore, let us not flinch at the thought of Christ on the cross. We should not become angry at the sight of a crucifix. Instead let us ponder such a reality. That God gave of himself for the sins of the world. That it is only through Christ’s death that we can come to know who he truly is, and it is only through Christ’s crucifixion that we can see him in his glory. We can say “truly this man was the Son of God.” So next time you see a crucifix and wonder why the body of Christ must be there, remember that an empty cross didn’t save you. Rather, one which held the body of Christ lifeless. If anything must remain empty, it is the tomb. For there, Christ vindicated himself. There he sanctified the graves and won eternal life for you. So, ponder the crucifix. Gaze upon the image of Christ and take in His passion for you. Then confess, “My Lord and my God!”