I have recently become convinced that we live in danger of two things that come out more clearly during Holy Week. I watched The Passion of the Christ this Wednesday and was brutally reminded of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wanted to turn away. The absolute ugliness and weakness of the cross were overwhelming. On Friday, I participated in a community worship service that entailed a bried recounting of the seven last words of Christ from the cross. I was moved again by the shear horror of what Jesus enduring suffered. I wanted to rush to Sunday morning, but knew that unless he endured the cross there would be no resurrection. On the other hand, once Sunday came along I gloried readily in the joy of Christ’s resurrection, but knew that this resurrection was of the Crucified and none other. In my heart, I know that we cannot have only the joy and not the sorrow; only the blessings and not the judgment. The resurrection and the crucifixion must be held together.
I have often encountered others who likewise appear to overly focus upon one to the neglect of the other. There are those who wrongly emphasize the cross to the neglect of the resurrection. I’m thinking here of certain church traditions in particular that focus more on suffering or on the things we seem capable to do ourselves. There are churches that recreate the crucifixion on a weekly basis through the constant representation of Christ’s sacrifice. This emphasis upon the cross has indeed created an atmosphere where it seems only fitting that Christ hanging from the cross is the central icon. There is little emphasis upon the recreated life that is empowered by the resurrection of Christ. There seems to be little power over sin.
On the other side are those who want to emphasize the resurrection and not the cross. They glory in everything finished in Christ. They live as if they’ve already arrived in glory. Such churches seem unconcerned about preaching the utter necessity of the crucified life. Emphasis on the cross means suffering and shame and they believe we should not focus on that, but on the victory of the resurrection. Is it possible that both are completely wrong. The one seems devoid of the resurrection power to save, make new and transform; the other seems devoid of following the very one who was raised, but bore his cross and commanded all who follow after Him to do likewise.
We need the foolishness of the cross AND the power of the resurrection to be preached and lived. We have not received all that we will receive through the resurrection and so we continue to bear our crosses as He did. We must put to death everything that exalts itself against Jesus. But in the crucified life we must not live as if we are only choosing some morally possible path. No, we were given life when we were absolutely dead. We could not save ourselves and the Resurrected One gave us life…indeed gives us Himself. Instead of an either/or, we must be faithful to the biblical tension of the two. Live in the light of the resurrection under the shadow of the cross.
(As an aside I’m grateful for those — like blogger Brian Fulthorp citing Eugene Peterson — who are wanting to reemphasize one where the other has been overemphasized).