I have a distinct memory in my high school years. Our beloved Latin teacher gave quite dramatic deliberations on a variety of subjects. She was always incredibly entertaining.I remember her talking about bubble gum giving your mouth a sugar bath of decay. I remember her literally sliding across a table with her hands clenched saying, “PLEASE, PLEASE…” I don’t remember what she was begging for, but the manner of asking made quite a long lasting impression, that’s for sure. Yes, Mrs. Goodman was one of my favorites. She was an incredible teacher, full of inspiration, drama, quick wit, and unconventional methods which sure made her students take note, and learn, like it or not. I still remember a lot that I learned in that class…
Well, one day, she started a very passionate dialogue. And she said something that really struck me. But this time it wasn’t about health or education or daily stuff. This time it was about faith, Christianity, and the Cross. She asked the question, “Why in the world would a religion choose a symbol as morbid as a cross? It may as well be a tombstone for what it represents.” And as a young believer in Christ, well, my wheels started spinning quite a bit. I mean, she had a point. The cross was a symbol of death. Not just a natural death, but a violent death where one is being killed. Killed. Punished. Put on public display.
So I got it. I got the reasoning for her diatribe. And as a new believer in Christ, this most often quiet high school girl wanted to raise my hand and raise my voice and say, “…but Mrs. Goodman…” But the class time was limited and my words didn’t formulate quickly even though my wheels were spinning fast. My hand stayed down and voice was silent. Ever since that time, I sometimes find myself thinking of Mrs. Goodman and her question. And here are some of my thoughts… (which so wouldn’t have been able to be spit out quickly in response to her age old question during a class period in high school…)
A week before Jesus was nailed to a cross, literally nailed to a cross, he was being praised, cheered, exalted, as a Savior. People lined the streets of Jerusalem and hailed the “King” on the donkey. They cried out “Hosanna!” One translation of “Hosanna” is ‘save now’. SAVE…NOW. Another translation is “I beg you to save now.” All signs were pointing to Jesus being the Messiah, the promised One who was to be the Savior of the World. And people were recognizing him as such. They saw the miracles, some realized the prophesies, listened to His words…and were moved by His presence.They were recognizing that this one born in Bethlehem under Beacon of a Star could be the One, the Messiah, they were waiting for. “Hosanna!” was shouted, palm leaves were waved as people lined the streets and hailed Jesus as King.
But their definition of SAVE…SAVE now…it was a bit different…more temporal than the one that Jesus spoke of. The week before Jesus was crucified on a cross, people had lined the streets to praise Him as the one who would save. But that ‘saving’ didn’t look like they wanted it to. They wanted the ‘SAVING’ to be from present circumstances. They wanted the ‘NOW’ to be…now. Days later, cheers turned to jeers, waving palm branches turned to whips, a road to a throne turned to a road to a cross.
But here’s the thing. That had been Jesus’ destination all along. To be the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice, the One who was to SAVE us, not only from present circumstance, but from our Sins….the Sin the like cancer eats away at us, but more than that, the sin that separates from a Holy, Pure, Righteous God. This Messiah came not only to “save now” from sins, He came to reign in our hearts as Lord. Sometimes we want to trade the external-temporal-SAVING-NOW, for the internal-eternal-Saving-for-all-time. The internal-external-Saving-for-all-time would take a sacrifice. Literally. The Messiah would be ‘pierced for our transgressions..’…and the cross, would be where that sacrifice would ultimately take place.
So, the cross became the symbol not for death but for life. It became the symbol for the death of sin’s hold and the redeeming of the soul.
I’m not sure what my Latin teacher would say after reading this. And I think it’s ironic that her name was Mrs. Goodman, because, she was good. In fact, she was great. She was a nut, but she was so loved and appreciated by so many. And like her name “Good – man”, there’s something in us that wants to believe that if we’re good enough, if we’re great enough, then, THEN, we or those people can earn their way into Heaven. And that’s the thing. It’s a faith thing. Not a works thing. The Bible says, “all have sinned…all fall short…” The chasm between holiness and humanity is too wide. And the cross of Christ, that symbol of death, becomes a symbol of life. Resurrected life. But the gift, it needs to be received. By faith. Alone.
But…if we don’t believe we are sinners, why would we need a Savior? And if we don’t believe God is a Holy God, and we are so not, why would we need a Redeemer? And if we don’t need a Redeemer, a Sacrifice, then why would we need a cross? Paul even recognized that reasoning when he said, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)
I am a sinner. From the get go. I need a Savior. Every Single Day. I need a Redeemer, a Messiah promised from the beginning of time. I need a cross. A symbol of temporal death becomes a symbol of eternal life. Why? Because Death didn’t have power over Jesus. He was resurrected. Changed. Sin had no hold on Him, and He was raised…and Lives. My Redeemer Lives. That’s what I see when I see the cross. I see a Sacrifice and a Resurrected Savior. When I see the cross, I see the Love of Christ that breaks sin’s hold on me and breaks through vain religious hoops and striving. When I see the cross, I see Jesus.
I’m not sure where Mrs. Goodman is now. And if I could go back and sit in her class…in a few words, I think I’d say that the cross is the crux. It’s the heart of a redemptive God. The Isaiah 53 Messiah was the Jesus on Calvary who didn’t stay down, but was resurrected. And my awesome Latin teacher would know that the root of resurrection, the Latin ‘resurgere ‘ means “rise again, appear again”. His death is the gateway to life. And because of that, by faith, Death can’t keep a good-man down. Not when a resurrected Christ is your advocate. And that, that is something to celebrate.
A Blessed Easter to You~
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
I Peter 1:3-4