Some years ago, in the middle of the night thieves stole a 14-foot bronze cross standing at the gate of the Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. They just cut it off at the base and dragged it away into the night, never to be seen or heard from again.
Because they have not located this cross, authorities have concluded the robbers must have cut it up and sold it for scrap metal. Their best estimates of the value of such an endeavor is that as scrap metal, that cross would have netted around $500. But if the thieves had left that cross intact, they most likely would have been able to net more than $10,000 from that theft. These thieves truly did not know the value of the cross.
Tragically, the same thing is true for most people when it comes to understanding the value of the cross of Christ. This Easter season causes us to reflect on such things more than at other times of the year, and we discover that all-too-often the cross is taken for granted. Just another ornament to dangle on a necklace, or a piece of furniture in the front of a church which needs dusting occasionally, or perhaps a symbol that stands atop a steeple on the roof, and yes, it does have value, but that value is just assumed, then looked over.
When Jesus died on the cross, He took all our sins — all of them, past, present, and future — and paid the greatest price for them. He died so that you and I might live.
When someone close to us dies, we grieve. Our sense of loss is great, and often our directions for the future are unclear. Even though Jesus had given specific instructions to those closest to Him about the future, their grief was so overpowering that they could do nothing but sit and mope for days. That Sabbath day for those disciples was not a happy one. No one was sitting around and saying, “Tomorrow is Easter Sunday! Whooppee!” No, they had lost their leader, their future was in the balance, and they simply did not know what to do.
When the ladies got up and went to that tomb on the morning after the Sabbath was over, they were not expecting to find it empty. In fact, we are told they were assuming the stone would still be there covering the entrance, and they would have to ask some of the soldiers if they would move it ever-so-slightly so the ladies could get in to properly treat the body for burial. They knew He had been dead, for they had been the ones to help remove His body from the tree and to prepare Him for a quick burial in order not to impose on the Sabbath rituals. Now that the Sabbath was over, they were returning to make sure He was properly cared for. They were absolutely shocked when they found the stone already rolled away. But Jesus had surprised them again. Wasn’t He always doing that?
In those few moments their whole perspective changed, their whole attitude changed. The mantra of the followers of Christ changed from “Woe! He’s dead!” to “Whoa! He’s alive!” Grief turned to joy. Sorrow turned to gladness. Despair turned to hope.
Years ago, an old preacher preached a sermon in a large church in which he repeatedly shouted to the people one phrase over and over again. His words echoed the resounding message of Easter for Christians the world over: “It’s Friday! But Sunday’s Comin’! It’s Friday! But Sunday’s Comin’!”
While some would simply say, “Isn’t that obvious?” and others might ask, “What happened to Saturday?”, those who are familiar with this chant understand that this heart-felt cry of Easter is meant to celebrate the victory that this holiday brings. “It’s Friday” points to Good Friday, when the aspirations, hopes and dreams of so many seemed to go up in smoke, or rather died on the cross at Calvary. If the Easter story ended there and then, the conclusion would not be nearly so positive. “But Sunday’s Comin’!” shows the hope that all who follow Christ have in the fact that He is risen indeed. We can be down on Friday, but Sunday starts the beginning of the new week, the new life. Because Jesus did not stay dead, and there is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that fact. His resurrection gives all who follow Him a new reason to live, a victory over all that beats us down.
Our daily struggles, if we let them, will continually try to discourage, defeat and destroy us. In a word, that is akin to selling the cross for the price of scrap metal. It is worth much more than that. The value of the cross is in the empty tomb. Victory is ours, and we need to claim it — daily.
Happy Easter and God bless!
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.