There is one area of biblical interpretation where conservatives, moderates, and liberals will all usually agree; the crucifixion is central to everything.
We won’t always agree on how it is important or even why. But most who embrace the name “Christian” are ready and willing to place Christ crucified at the center of their faith.
Today we find ourselves drawing lines in the sand as we have done for years and years, most recently on the old topic of the reality of hell. Moderates and liberals blame conservatives for creating a fuss over the smallest of details. Conservatives blame moderates for distorting the truthfulness of Scripture. And although the debates and conversations are at times worthwhile and needed, on this day – Good Friday – Jesus Christ is carrying a blood soaked cross to a hill on which to die. Let’s place the disagreements behind us for a moment and with sweet unity proclaim this blessing: Jesus Christ is a great Savior and a loving King.
Death met death on the cross. Jesus Christ finished the work he had started with a final strike against the enemy of death. “O Death, where is your sting?” Although we wrestle with the physical pain and darkness of death, we no longer wrestle with the spiritual darkness; the Light of the world has won the victory. Oh, what a cost at which it came! “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The old song says it best; “sometimes it makes me want to tremble. Tremble. Tremble.”
“Today, salvation has come to your house.” These are the words of Jesus to Zacchaeus. The cross speaks the same message – Today, salvation has come to the world. ‘Whosoever will’ may come. For those who do approach the cross, and for those who dare to daily take up their own, what word best describes the effect of the cross on our lives? Salvation? Yes. Sacrifice or self-denial? Absolutely. Grace and mercy? You betcha. Love? Oh, yes. Love.
What is the greatest kind of love? Jesus tells us clearly, “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” We are right to meditate on the pain of the cross this day. We are right to feel the weight of the scourging and the crucifixion. We are right to examine with a heavy heart the nail-scarred hands and pierced side. We are right to experience Godly sorrow which leads to repentance.
But it must all direct us toward love.
The cross of Christ, with its scorn and grief to bear, is also the cross of love. Alongside our contrite souls must live a greater awareness of others. Alongside our darkened, silent sanctuaries must exist a vibrant, noisy heart for service. Good Friday is the darkest day of the year. And yet in it, we find a renewed vigor to pay attention to our neighbor. To turn the other cheek to our enemies. And to count the smallest of these as the greatest. I believe the person who truly meditates on the darkness of the cross is the person who will best be able to see others through a lens of love.
Good Friday is here. Tremble in it. And then go love.