Stop me if you’ve heard (or preached) this sermon:

“The reason we don’t have a crucifix in this church, glory to God, is because, hallelujah, Jesus is not on that cross anymore, amen?! (Amen!). No! Glory to God, Jesus rose again, and the cross is empty, amen?! (Amen!).”

Dear friend, I hate to interrupt the sermon – and we’ll come back to it in a moment – but did you know that there are lots of (shall we call them) “literary crucifixes” in the Bible? To put it more simply, there are lots of pictures of crucified men dying (or dead) on crosses in the pages of God’s Holy Word, and in every case the ten Biblical authors of those particular sacred and inspired texts (and the Spirit of God who inspired them) want us to look at them all. In fact there are at least 17 literary crucifixes in the pages of God’s Word. Let’s go together, stand under each of them for a moment, and look up at them together.

Moses’ Crucifix – Deuteronomy 21:23

23 his corpse shall not remain on the tree overnight. You must bury it the same day; anyone who is hanged is a curse of God. You shall not defile the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you as a heritage. (cf. Gal. 3:13 where St. Paul the Apostle links this text with the crucifixion of Jesus).

The Psalmist’s Crucifix – Psalm 22:17

17 Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and my feet

Isaiah’s Crucifix – Isaiah 53:5

5 But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.

St. Matthew’s Crucifix – Mat. 27:35, 50

35 After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots… 50 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. (see also: Mat. 20:19; 26:2; 27:22-23, 26; 28:5).

St. Mark’s Crucifix – Mark 15:24, 37

24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take… 37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. (see also Mk. 15:15; 16:6).

St. Luke’s Crucifix – Luke 23:33, 46

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. (see also Luke 24:7, 20; Acts 2:36; 4:10).

St. John’s Crucifix – John 19:18, 30

18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle… 30 When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (see also John 19:32, 41).

St. Paul’s Eight Crucifixes

Rom. 6:6 – 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.

1 Cor. 1:23 – 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

1 Cor. 2:2, 82 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified8 and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for, if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

2 Cor. 13:4 – 4 For indeed he was crucified out of weakness, but he lives by the power of God. So also we are weak in him, but toward you we shall live with him by the power of God.

Gal. 3:1 – O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

Phil. 2: 88 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Col. 1:2020 and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven.

The Author of Hebrews’ Crucifix – Hebrews 12:2

2 while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.

St. Peter’s Crucifix – 1 Pet. 2:24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

If, when you enter a worship space featuring a crucifix in the center of the room and you don’t like it or you think something wrong is being done, let me ask you — do you feel the same when you see all these crucifixes featured on the pages of the Bible? Without the crucifix…(ion of Jesus), we cannot faithfully tell the story of Jesus. The path to the resurrection leads through Golgotha, and when we come to that place we are all invited to stop, look, and listen to what God is saying to us. Were that not the case, the authors of these texts would have left the crucifix(ion) out of the story. But if they kept it in (as we can see they did), then perhaps we should think twice about removing them from the places where we come to worship, remember, preach, and receive Christ.

Oh – back to the sermon for a moment. It may seem trivial or nit-picky, but I remind the preacher that Jesus did not rise from the cross. He was not resurrected from Calvary’s hill. He was killed, died, and taken down from the cross dead, and placed in a grave. The cross was emptied of the dead body of the crucified Jesus. The resurrection happened in another place altogether. It happened at the tomb of Jesus, but I’ve noticed that it’s impossible to find a lot of empty tombs in places of worship where they say they don’t like crucifixes. I’m not sure why. Jesus rose from the grave, not from the cross.

No doubt your hymnal has a crucifix or two in it as well.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. [2]

Dear preacher (and dear Christian), can I gently exhort you? Please don’t remove the crucifixes from your Christianity. The Bible isn’t asking you to do that. If it was, there wouldn’t be so many crucifixes in its pages encouraging you over and over to look upon them and see what Jesus has done for you on the cruciform journey to God’s Right Hand where he now rules and reigns over God’s world as the resurrected and rightful Lord.

——

Notes and References

[1] All Bible quotations are from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC

[2] Hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts

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