An Eye Always Towards the Resurrection
There is no other sign or symbol that summarizes the Christian Faith like the Cross.
Christians put crosses on our churches, in our homes, around our necks and some of us make the sign of the Cross over our bodies. We find our heart and identity grounded in, and defined by, the Cross of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul said, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14) However we understand and/or apply what happened on the Cross, one thing is certain: authentic, Apostolic, historic, Orthodox Christian preaching is Cross-centered. In fact, it is Cross saturated.
The death of Jesus on the Cross is so central, that the Christ himself specifically prophecies to his holy disciples and Apostles about it on 3 separate occasions (while also alluding to it other times to others [Matthew 12:39-40, 16:4; Luke 11:29-30]). “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21) “[H]e was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.'” (Mark 9:31) “And after flogging [the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus)], they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luke 18:33)
Yet, it would be a misunderstanding to leave the message simply at the Cross. For as central as the Cross is to Christian preaching, so also is the third day, bodily Resurrection of Jesus that leads to his Ascension and enthronement. In fact, the Cross preached correctly always has the Resurrection in view. Jesus himself, in each of the 3 prophetic words towards his Cross, follows it up immediately with prophecy of the Resurrection. “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21) “[H]e was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.'” (Mark 9:31) “And after flogging [the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus)], they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luke 18:33)
The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthian 15:3 summarizes the Cross in the Gospel saying, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [and] he was buried…” It is true that the Cross is the fulcrum that is the revelation of the love, offering, justice/righteousness, kingship of Jesus and fulfillment of the Scriptures. But in the same breath Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 15:4 that, “[Jesus] was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Therefore it is equally true that third day, bodily Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead as Lord and Christ is the confirmation of the aforementioned revelation.
The Apostle Peter too, on the first Pentecostal sermon, preached, in one breath, the Cross and the vindicating Resurrection of Jesus. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24)
The rest of Peter’s Good News proclamation centers on the Resurrection and enthronement of Christ. This tells us that the primitive Gospel is not a grim focus of a blood-thirsty, irate deity whom these poor souls must appease, nor a disinterested Grandfather type who doesn’t take seriously sin and death but rather, a message of the Kingship of Christ by triumphing over death thereby becoming their deliverer from the “crooked generation” (Acts 2:40b) in which they find themselves. (It should be noted however, should they remain insurrectionists against Jesus kingship, only judgment awaits. [Luke 19:16, Acts 17:31])
Finally, the Apostle John also links the death and resurrection of Christ. In John 10:17, Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” Two chapters later, the benefit to those who are followers of Jesus is shown by that death and resurrection. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Once he, the grain of wheat, has born much fruit, he will “raise it up” (John 6:39) for its own resurrection from the dead together with his.
The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus are one Gospel event. The Cross is the display of the depths (death) to which God has gone to recover mankind. The Resurrection is the beginning of mankind’s journey back to God with God. The resounding message of the Cross is that Christ has trampled down Death by death, and upon those in the tombs, he has bestowed life and thereby, establishes his Kingdom. Every other facet of the Cross finds its goal in that statement or it is a different gospel than that preached by our Lord’s Apostles.
Concerning the Cross and Resurrection the Church hymns:
Before Thy Cross, We bow down in worship O Master; and Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify!
Thus, the Church has implanted in its hymnography these twin pillars of the Gospel always together. May they always be together in our presentation of the Gospel. Glory to the Crucified Jesus! Glory to the Risen Christ forever!