Good Friday and The Centrality of the Cross
- Thursday, March 20, 2008
March 20, 2008
"I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the lord above for mercy, ‘Save me if you please.'"
~ Eric Clapton, "Crossroads"
"Crossroads," the blues classic by Eric Clapton, is a song about a man seeking escape from his desperate existence. Will he find it in a ride to Rosedale, a drinking binge, a flight from one destination to the next, or in God's grace? At the song's end, we are left to wonder. Nevertheless, Clapton's lyrics, laced with his riveting guitar riffs, grab our attention.
A crossroads is a place where divergent paths meet, forcing us to make choices that can be at once exciting and scary. It can be a place of crisis, where the pain of the past butts up against our hopes for the future; or a place of opportunity, where the road ahead promises brighter prospects in the vast frontier beyond.
In either case, a crossroads is a call to change: from where we've been to where we're going; from what we're leaving behind to what we're striving for; from who we are to who we're becoming.
As free-willed creatures, we are continually leaving one crossroads and entering another. Will we pick up the ball or the doll? Will we eat our food or play with it? Will we wear blue socks or black socks? Will we finish high school or work as a mechanic? Will we propose to Susan or play the field? And on it goes.
Like a string of beads forming a necklace, crossroads connect the past, present, and future of human experience in an unbroken thread of possibility. But the central crossroads, the one through which every life must pass, lies on a hill in Golgotha.
Standing in Paralysis
"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." That was the self-description of a first century mystic named Jesus Christ. Not only did this traveling teacher profess equality with God, He insisted that He and God were one and the same.
Was He serious? Or was this the babbling of some megalomaniac, simpleton, or quack? If it was, we are confronted by the absurdity of such characterizations against His life and teachings. What about the followers who backed up His extravagant claims? Were they deluded or deceitful, dying for what they knew to be false, or did they really believe what they testified to have seen and touched?
Yet in the face of these outrageous claims is a moral philosophy held in universal esteem, even among his critics. We are left to attribute this to either a befuddled or dangerous individual or worse—take Him at His word.
We stand at this crossroads paralyzed. On the one hand, we are forced to consider how a moral teaching, no matter how useful, could have any integrity when the message and the man don't match. On the other, we're completely undone by the staggering implications of God's physical visitation. Can we move forward? Will we?
Splitting the Horizontal and Vertical
The God of the Bible is intrinsically complete in the eternal community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, creation is a work not of God's loneliness or lack, but of His love. Love binds, love makes perfect, love completes. Love bridges the chasm of isolation bringing fellowship where there is separation, making true community a reality. And the wider the chasm, the greater measure of love needed to bring distant parties together.
Between God and man, the chasm is unfathomable; in fact, it's unbridgeable. Without divine intervention, communion with God is impossible. Yet between that divide stands the Cross. Jesus Christ, through His life, death, and resurrection, reaches over the infinite expanse in an unequaled act of love.
Along the Vertical
In everything, the Cross is central. As the vertical penetration of God into spacetime, the Cross allows God to present Himself to man and man to present himself to God.
At the head of the Cross, God's love flows earthward from a thorn-gashed brow. At the foot of the Cross, man's gaze moves heavenward to a pair of nail-pierced feet. In divine descent, the Son atones, the Father forgives, and the Spirit indwells. In response, man reaches up to receive and, then, marvels at the wonder of the divine gift. In this divine-human interchange, the Cross brings together the earthly and the heavenly, uniting what was separate and imparting life to what was life-less.
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