Peter Marshall, the great Scottish-American Presbyterian preacher who twice served as chaplain of the United States Senate, declared, “The gospel is not something to do—but something done. Not a demand—but a supply. Not something you can do—but something done for you. And it happened on the brow of a hill shaped like a skull. It was done simply because of God’s love…. That is why a hideous cross has become the world’s symbol of blessing.”
Good Friday is a time when we contemplate the passion of Christ. With Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) we ponder:
O sacred head now wounded,
With grief and pain weighed down,
How scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown!
On Good Friday, we envision Christ’s physical pain and anguish on our behalf. In some small measure, we endeavour to comprehend the merciless scourging, the unrelenting beating, the contemptuous crown of thorns, the wounding nails and the agonizing death itself. Christ’s body and spirit are in torment as he bears the sins of the world.
Meditating on Christ’s suffering cannot help but sensitize us to the suffering world around us. There is such poverty of spirit in the lives of many who long for wholeness, healing and restoration. We speak much about “community” today, and we must remember how vital it is to remain in tune with one another. Community life does not necessarily mean living in close proximity to others. It means never losing the awareness that we are all connected to one another. We are not alone, and in the spirit of Christ, we must reach out in love to others.
The cross exemplifies our connection to one another. He died for you. He died for me. He died for the world. We therefore must continually reach out to our brothers and sisters—to care, to help, to love. Only Calvary brings wholeness, completeness, oneness with Christ.
Only Calvary brings wholeness, completeness and oneness with Christ
The hideous cross is transformational. The agonizing face of Jesus on the cross is shockingly beautiful! Beyond the suffering, we see the strength. Beyond the struggle, we see the triumph. We begin to understand that Christ’s spirit is reaching out to our spirit, and in some extraordinary, mystical way, it all makes sense.
In the final stanza of his poem, Bernard of Clairvaux implores:
Be near me, Lord, when dying;
O show thyself to me;
And, for my succor flying,
Come, Lord, to set me free.
On Good Friday, we must never forget that Resurrection Sunday is coming! Sunday is the eternal achievement of Friday. When we find ourselves lost in a labyrinth of life’s burdens and conflicts, remember that Sunday is coming. Because of Easter Sunday, disjointed, disillusioned and disengaged lives trapped in bondage can suddenly be freed to experience new life in Christ. All this is possible because of Christ’s supreme sacrifice on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the grave.
Easter means that our bound spirits can soar—free from anything or anyone that would hold us back from experiencing fullness of life in Christ. Resurrection Sunday celebrates that eternal freedom and delights in the wholeness of spirit that Christ imparts.
What blessings can we anticipate because of the cross?
Blessings for TODAY—Christ’s death and Resurrection give us hope for today. He promises to be with us and that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He walks with us daily and, when things get really tough, he carries us.
Blessings for TOMORROW—Today is heaven and the way to Heaven. Tomorrow is the everlasting assurance that we will be with the Lord for eternity. One day, we will be made new and completely whole.
May the Lord richly bless you this Easter. When you next see the symbol of the cross, may you see it in a fresh light—God’s glorious light. May you know, beyond all doubt, that God’s abundant blessings are for you to claim—all because of Christ’s sacrificial death and triumphant Resurrection.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6). Christ is risen—he is risen indeed!
Commissioner William W. Francis is the Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory. His wife, Commissioner Marilyn Francis, is the Territorial President for Women’s Ministries. Commissioners Francis have two adult children, Captain William Marshall and Susan Marjorie, plus six grandchildren.