We have all heard it from our protestant friends and sometimes even from our Lutheran acquaintances – “Why do you have Jesus on the cross, that is so Catholic? That is so negative. We believe in the resurrected Jesus so we have empty crosses.” That last phrase is quite profound. They do indeed have empty crosses.
I and the other two pastors here at Bethany Lutheran Church and School, Naperville, Illinois, have taken to pointing to the processional cross during the sermons when we speak of Christ crucified for our sins. In some sermons that can be as many as three or four times. Because Christ on the cross serves as a helpful homiletical illustration is another good reason to fill our crosses up with the corpus of Christ. This is a fitting matter to consider on this most holy and good day of the church year.
The main reason we have Christ on our crosses is for theological reasons. These theological reasons are both positive and negative. Here are a few positive reaons.
- The Bible says we preach Christ crucified (I Cor. 1:23). Therefore, good church art which is to reflect what we preach and teach has Christ on the cross being crucified for our sins.
- The heart and core of the faith is the forgiveness of sins and that forgiveness takes place on the cross. It is there that Jesus says “It is finished.”
- The resurrection from the dead is a vital teaching and cannot be separated from the crucifixion but it must always be remembered that death is a by-product of sin and sin was paid for on the cross. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:56 that the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. Both sin and the law are put to death in Jesus body on the cross.
Here are a couple of negative reasons.
- Leaving Jesus off the cross is a theology of glory. The theology of glory is a Calvinist invention preferred by the MethoBapticostals. It takes the emphasis off the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins and puts it on the triumphal Jesus who leads us to morally upright and effective lives.
- Leaving Jesus off the cross diminishes the significance of the sacraments of Holy Absolution and Holy Communion because the pastor is not seen as a mouthpiece of forgiveness nor an administrator of the body and blood of Christ but as a life coach exhorting believers on to glorified resurrection living.
- Leaving Jesus off the cross supports the erroneous theology of “church growth.” This faulty theology is reflected in sermon series on the purpose driven life (individual purpose is not a scriptural category), money management tactics (the Bible says very little about personal money management – the parables on money are about the Gospel, not the proper use of money) and good parenting skills (the Bible says very little about proper parenting).
Following in the footsteps of St. Paul, true Confessional Christians proudly placard Jesus Christ crucified (Galatians 3:1).
We have numerous crucifixes throughout our church and school but recently I noticed that while teaching adult confirmation in our conference room I kept reaching to point to the corpus and was frustrated because we did not have a crucifix in there. We recently did the work to get one there and in all the rooms of the church and school where we teach the Gospel so that we can clearly preach Christ crucified.
May God bless your Good Friday devotion that your eyes may be fixed more securely on Christ crucified that you may know for sure that your sins are forgiven.