I am sure I spend too much time on social media. As a result, I find myself frustrated with an all-too-common trope on Twitter when tragedy strikes. Someone caught up in the heat of a moment, and usually not a pastor, will write, “If your pastor does not speak on X this weekend, he is doing it wrong!” This gets under my skin because I know my congregation and the passage God has laid before us, and I do not take kindly to an angry stranger telling me I am doing my job wrong. Every time this shows up in my feed, though, it is a reaction to something genuinely tragic. Easter is an opportunity to break the reactive cycle, jump ahead of the tragedy in the world, and talk about our most hopeful and redemptive moment—the cross of Jesus Christ.
Our world needs the cross now as much as it ever has. It might sound a little strange saying that history’s most recognizable implement of torture is a great way to address a world struggling with a pandemic and its fall out. Add that to a cultural landscape becoming more complicated and divisive, and you have a recipe for puzzling times. Nevertheless, the cross has a lot to say to us right now.
In fact, the cross of Jesus Christ is the only event in human history that can overcome what feels like overwhelming evils in the world today.
The Cross levels the playing field
Every human being is equally a sinner and separated from God under the cross. There is nothing about us, our economic power, social status, or ethnic background, that changes this fact or makes one of us more or less a sinner than the other. This is surprisingly good news. If we are unequally sinners under God, based on our position in society, our politics, or the color of our skin, then righteousness becomes a matter of overcoming those things. Righteousness, then, is a matter of our works, not of grace.
But, because everyone of us is incapable of fixing the sin within us, it is good news that Jesus came to fix it for us. None of us need to do anything special to merit salvation. Jesus completed the work on the cross and the empty tomb, and we receive salvation by grace. Every one of us.
If sin is unequally distributed among us, we stand looking at each other, blaming each other for our tragedies, demanding that other people fix what is wrong with them. If sin is equally part of who we all are, we stand shoulder to shoulder gazing at the cross, unspeakably thankful for grace.
The Cross is forgiveness
The final word Jesus spoke from the cross is the Greek word, “tetelesti,” or, “It is finished” (John 19:30). God did not demand that I hang on the cross for my sin. Instead, He went to the cross, took my sin upon Himself and died in my place.
The Old Testament uses the image of a scapegoat to help us understand Jesus’s sacrifice. The scapegoat was an actual goat that stood in for the sin of the people and symbolized God removing it far from his people. As The Scapegoat, Jesus does the same for us. But if we reject Jesus as our scapegoat, we inevitably look for another.
Humans by nature know there is something wrong with the world, and if we do not look to Jesus as the final scapegoat, we find groups of people to blame for injustice. If they would only change who they are and what they do, we can finally find justice. This is misplaced wrath, however, and only creates a perpetual cycle of blame and division.
The grace Jesus offers ends every one of those unhealthy cycles and provides forgiveness for every sinner who repents. He is the end of our sin and the beginning of our reconciliation.
The Cross is inevitable resurrection
Our world offers brokenness without hope. The cross of Christ is brokenness with hope.
I recently performed a funeral for a 31-year-old wife and mother of three who died in her sleep. That kind of unexpected loss is not something that can be fixed with simple answers. It takes something greater than death itself to provide light through that pain. This world cannot bear the weight of that kind of loss, but the cross of Christ can.
Pastors face a lot of cross pressures from week to week, especially when the stakes are high. Easter brings both high hopes and lofty expectations. Being able to lean on the cross and the resurrection gives us the strength to speak the truth of hope in Christ and leave the rest to Him. We cannot solve our social ills this weekend, and we cannot save a single soul. That is in Christ’s hands. The cross is good news for the pastor, too, who wants nothing more than to see the risen Christ save and transform lives.
Because the cross inevitably leads to resurrection, we can always preach hope, secure in the truth of our triumphant and gracious Savior. No matter what this week brings, Easter gives pastors an opportunity to lead congregations to the hope of the cross of Jesus Christ.