Monday, 24 June 2013

Which empty?

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (NASB)

My reflection on this passage may at first seem a little tangential. It goes back to a conversation I had with someone some time ago. I was arguing that there was value in the crucifix, and not just the standard cross. Being of a Calvinist persuasion, this person wanted to avoid all hint of Catholicism and focus on the empty cross. 

There is of course good reason for this. Jesus said 'It is finished' (Jn 19:30). His atoning work, that act of taking the place of Israel and hence all of humanity on the cross, to atone for sin and 'bring us to God' is all achieved. So the symbolism of an empty cross is a body taken down because in the very act of being crucified Jesus bore the curse of sin (Gal 3:13).

But if this were the sole value of the cross - then there would be no rejoinders by Jesus (e.g. Mark 8:34) or Peter (1 Peter 2:24) to follow his example. I also take the encouragement by the writer to the Hebrews that Jesus was tempted in every way, including to revile his persecutors on the cross, but didn't. The crucifix reminds us of the suffering of Christ and his example. Those of us on the other side of the Reformation divide need to get over it.

Indeed, what about the empty tomb? The resurrection points to our future hope (1 Cor 15) and forgiveness of sins, to say nothing of Jesus as the world's true Lord (Rm 1:1-4). This is where all power and authority has been given to Jesus (Mt 28:18). Jesus doesn't simply rule the church, but the world - though this is not yet manifest and is a sacrificial ruling (unlike a good many pastors & priests in my experience).

So if we are to embrace the biblical symbols to identify the Christian community, both occupied and empty symbols are important in our reflection on Jesus, his work, our identity and mission.

No comments:

Post a Comment