THE GENERAL’S EASTER MESSAGE – A symbol most sublime
by General John Larsson –
THE CROSS is the sublimest of all Christian symbols.
In the early years after the death of Jesus the symbol of a fish was frequently used among Christians. It was a coded way of saying in the Greek language that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The fish is still a Christian sign today, but it is the Cross that stands central and that is, to believers, the most precious symbol.
When we look at the Cross we see in it a symbol of sacrifice—a symbol which speaks to us of pardon. The people of Jesus’ day understood the deep meaning of the sacrificial system of the temple. It is therefore not hard to imagine the impact that John the Baptist’s words must have had when he said about Jesus: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The New Testament tells us that Jesus “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12), and that through his death on the Cross our sins can be forgiven and our relationship with God can be restored.
The word picture that John Bunyan painted remains ever true. Pilgrim, escaping from the City of Destruction, comes to a Cross on a hill. He carries a heavy burden on his back—the burden of the guilt of his sins and failures. But when he kneels before the Cross and looks up to it in faith the burden rolls away. He is forgiven! He is accepted into the family of God.
When we look at the Cross we see in it also a symbol of victory—a symbol which speaks to us of spiritual power and resurrection. It is the empty cross—not Christ crucified on it—that is the ultimate Christian sign.
Throughout his ministry on earth, Jesus had been driving out demons. A cosmic war was taking place. And when he died on the Cross it looked for a moment as if the forces of evil had won. The end had come. But, no! On the third day he conquered the forces of darkness in the greatest battle ever fought by arising from the dead.
Paul describes it vividly: “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross” (Colossians 2:15). And that is why Christians sing with triumphant voice:
Thine is the glory, risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.
And the glorious message of Easter is that we too can share in that victory over evil and death. Nothing in life comes without cost—but the victory is assured. Paul’s moving prayer in Philippians 3:10 sums it up: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” The power of his resurrection is available to us—here and now. It is available to meet all of the circumstances of this life and it is the power that gives us eternal life.
When we look at the Cross we also see in it a symbol of revelation—a symbol which speaks to us of purpose and meaning in life. “But I,” said Jesus, “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). God reveals himself supremely through the death of Jesus. And when we pause to ponder we find ourselves irresistibly drawn to that lonely figure on the Cross—and we can never be the same again.
When we look at Jesus on the Cross we see the love of God revealed as never before—or since. He is betrayed and forsaken—and yet he loves. He is arrested and mocked and beaten—and still he loves. He is taunted by the soldiers, abandoned by the crowd that a few days earlier had hailed him as a king—and still he loves. He, the son of the living God, is crucified between two thieves—and still he loves. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” he cries (Luke 23:34). In the Cross we see right into the heart of God—and we discover that he is pure love!
The cruise ship in the Mediterranean passed close to Stromboli, the famous island volcano that rises sheer out of the sea. It was almost dark. Suddenly there was a great burst of flame from the crater at the summit. The passengers abandoned their dinner and rushed to the deck. Huge tongues of flame shot up hundreds of feet into the sky, lighting the ocean for miles around. Red-hot boulders raced down the mountainside, and gradually a swirling stream of red-hot lava forced its way to the sea. The sky reflected the golds and yellows, the reds and purples of the seething mass of molten rocks. Everyone stood in awed silence watching the unfolding spectacle.
A moment later it was over. The eruption ceased. The lava cooled and hardened. The reds became grays and then blacks. The sky darkened again. Soon there was nothing to see. Just darkness. But the effect on those who had watched could be felt. No one wanted to talk. For a moment they had seen what is always at the heart of the earth.
Fire! Fire burning with an intensity that defies description.
It is so with the Cross. In the Cross we see revealed for a few hours what has always been at the heart of the universe. Love! Love burning with an intensity that is beyond words. Love so great that it has to be seen to be grasped. And when we see Jesus dying on that Cross for our sins we cry out: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” For the revelation of the Cross points even beyond pardon and power—it points to the greatest of all purposes, a life dedicated to God and to his service.
It is little wonder that the Cross is the sublimest of the Christian symbols. And for the Christian it is even more. For the believer the Cross is the sublimest symbol of all symbols—the sublimest symbol of all time. For it is in the Cross that we see displayed the good news of Jesus Christ. And it is because of the Cross that we can exclaim: “We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by his suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.”