High above the altar in our parish church is a near life-size Crucifix. Jesus Christ is portrayed in the full agony of His suffering on the Holy Cross. His bruised and beaten Body is dripping blood from all the wounds He endured. His face is contorted in pain. Anyone who sees our Crucifix confronts the suffering and death of Jesus. For some, it is repellant–too bloody, too awful to look at. Others gaze upon Him almost in a rapture of adoration, losing themselves in Christ’s complete offering of Himself for our salvation. No matter how you approach the Crucifix, any Crucifix, you’re confronted with the reality of what Jesus did for us on that hill outside Jerusalem.
The Passion of Christ wasn’t an intellectual experiment. It wasn’t some kind of mental mind game that God employed to reason us into salvation. It wasn’t a parable or a mere story to be told to the grandkids. This wasn’t a philosophical exercise that the Lord presented to us as a starting-point for debate or research. The Passion was bloody and dirty and horribly cruel. It was a real man, in the prime of His life, arrested and beaten almost to death before being nailed to the Cross. He endured hours of mortal agony, offering no resistance, asking that His Father forgive the men who were killing Him. He poured His life out, literally, unto the last drop, out of love for you and me.
That’s what I see when I see our Crucifix. Yes, it’s bloody. Yes, it’s even offensive. It’s a shocking thing to see in a Church. And that’s what makes it so perfect. The Crucifixion is shocking and blood and offensive. And without it life is meaningless and without hope. There are lots of folks who never contemplate the Crucifixion or the love of our God Who died to give us life. All we have to do is look around us, or read the news, to see a world blind to Calvary. We see the enemy gathering its forces in cities and countries around the world, and even in our own country. We see innocent people killed for their belief in Christ. This has happened before in the history of our world and we know what to do. “…we preach Christ crucified”(I Corinthians 1:23).
Christ crucified. When I look at our Crucifix I see His love and sacrifice for me. I see His mercy in forgiving His tormentors. I see His humble submission to His Father’s will. I see the complete commitment of a life to love and service. In the Crucifix, I see Love holding nothing back. Spending time before the Crucifix is time at the foot of the Cross, in prayer with my Savior.
My protestant friends often have a bare Cross in their churches, and we share in a love for it, too. But the Cross didn’t save me—–Jesus crucified on the Cross saves me. That sacred presence of His Body sanctifies the wood of the tree. Without His Passion, the Cross is just another cruel Roman tool of death. When I see a Crucifix, I see hope for the world. I see mercy for the sinner, love for the forgotten, healing for the wounded. And joy for those who mourn. I see the courage that I need to share His love with a broken world. I see our only Way, our only Truth, our only Life. No political leader, no secular philosophy, no economic regime can bring us the peace we all crave. Only Christ crucified is the answer to every question and the solution to every problem the world will ever have.
“How beautiful it is to stand before the Crucifix simply to be under the Lord’s gaze, so full of love.”