The Cross and the Resurrection | Part II

Question 2: Christ has been raised, and so both the cross and the grave are now empty. In light of this, isn’t it wrong to focus on a crucified Savior when, after all, we serve a living Christ (Issue: Distorting Christ’s identity)

This question creates a false choice—and a dangerous one—for how we are to view Jesus. The Savior we worship and serve is indeed a risen, glorious Savior, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1) and upholding all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). However, he is also the suffering servant who through his death ransoms many (Mark 10:45; see also Isaiah 53:10‐11) and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). A crucified Jesus was central to the preaching of Paul, who emphatically reminded the Galatians that “it was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1). It was precisely because Paul boldly proclaimed “Christ crucified” that the gospel was a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23)!

In fact, we cannot know Jesus rightly apart from the cross, for it is through that gruesome death that his identity is revealed (John 8:28; see also 12:32, 34). Something profound is at stake here. To conceive of Christ apart from the cross is to distort his identity and his mission, much as Peter did when he rebuked Jesus for announcing his pending suffering and death (Mark 8:31-33). We can infer God’s greatness and power from his creation (Romans 1:19‐20), but it is at the cross that his love and mercy are most fully revealed. In the new heavens and new earth we will undoubtedly worship Christ in hushed silence as we behold his transcendent glory (Revelation 1:12‐17), extolling him as the victorious Lion of the tribe of Judah. But we will also forever sing his praise as the Lamb that was slain, whose blood ransomed the people of God (Revelation 5:6‐10).

As a result, we are never to move on from beholding Jesus as our crucified Savior, relegating the cross to the past. The cross must always inform our understanding of Christ in the present, for it will indeed do so for eternity.