A premature Easter
I recently saw a church that was beautifully decorated for Easter. Ornamental crosses proclaimed “He is Risen.” Banners declaring the resurrection flitted gracefully in the wind and freshly planted flowers reached toward the sun. It was beautiful. Inspiring in its own way. But something troubled me. We were still at least ten days from Easter. It seemed that the church was so eager to embrace victory that they forgot that victory comes at a terrible price. But God’s method is the cross before the crown. In other words, suffering and conflict precede a victory.
Avoiding the ugliness
We humans are biologically hardwired to avoid things we consider unpleasant. From infancy we’re psychologically conditioned to associate goodness with beauty and evil with ugliness. Death—especially the brutality of Christ’s death of the cross—is something from which most of us would shrink back. We are tempted to acknowledge the price of Calvary without fully reflecting on its raw ugliness. The beatings. The nakedness. The spitting. The shame. A scene so horrific the sun withheld its light. And yet a scene that “pleased God” according to the book of Isaiah.
The cross proved He was worthy
Why would a kind, loving God insist upon the terrors of that dark day? We can discuss the horror of our sin, and the unimaginable price that had to be paid, but I would also point to the fact that God displays character through suffering. Never had the world seen a Man with a character like that of Jesus Christ. And the Father expressed this when He hung him on a cross—naked, bruised, humiliated—and still loving the world that hung Him there. The most terrible death only illuminated the divinity of His nature, leaving the world in awe. The cross proved that He was worthy of the crown.
I believe the same can be said of those who follow in Jesus’s footsteps—with one difference. His character was flawless. Ours is not. The cross displayed the beauty of His nature; our cross is given to mold our nature. His cross showed that He was worthy of the crown; our cross is given to make us worthy of the same.
Our crosses are metaphysical. We all face hardship, or brutal tests that try our very soul. Verbal or physical abuse. The knife of grief. The sting of cruel words or rejection. As our world is gripped by secular values, many Christians feel marginalized because of our beliefs. In my own life, I continuously face challenges because of my race. And, as I quietly work to improve situations for the Black community in my area, no doubt I will face many more. But remembering that the cross we have been given is designed to mold our character allows us to embrace it, despite the pain that the cross itself brings.
Changing my prayers
I no longer pray for deliverance from my burdens. I pray instead for the strength to carry them. For my character to be formed through the rough-hewn timbers that dig into me, getting under my skin. Because I know that after the cross, comes my crown.
Good Friday should not be overlooked. For, like a crown of gold on display, the beauty of Easter can only be truly appreciated when offset by the bleak reality of the cross.
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About JP Robinson
JP Robinson is a prolific award-winning author. He graduated from SUNY Stony Brook university at 19 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and another in French. He is currently wrapping up his Master’s of Education.
JP is a contributor to Guideposts, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, and the Salvation Army’s War Cry. His work has been praised by industry leaders such as Publishers Weekly and secured the #1 spot on Amazon’s historical thrillers category.
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Well said, (as always) Too many churches will preach ressurection this weekend with no mention of the cross.
Thank you TonyaAnn. I’ve found that if individuals and churches just stick with God’s process, things work out perfectly. 🙂