Crucifix

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Galatians 3:1

I grew up Lutheran. When I was five and moved to Illinois with my family, we joined St. Paul’s Lutheran Church & School in Round Lake.

When I started confirmation, we transferred to Good Shepherd Lutheran in Lake Villa, where I remained a member all through high school and college.

Both churches had crosses in the sanctuary. But like most Lutheran – and protestant – churches, these crosses were empty.

Interior photograph of Chapel of Christ Triumphant at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, Wis., on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.  LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford
Interior photograph of Chapel of Christ Triumphant at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, Wis., on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

When I transferred as a sophomore to Concordia College (now University) Wisconsin I was kind of surprised by the cross in the sanctuary of the chapel on the campus.

The cross was not empty!

Concordia Wisconsin in Mequon is on the former campus of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. So it’s not surprising that the cross in the chapel has a corpus on it!

The corpus is a representation of the crucified body of Jesus Christ.

A cross with a corpus on it is called a crucifix.

In the church that I serve now as an associate pastor there are both an empty cross (which we’ll explore in a future devotion) and a crucifix that serves as one of our processional crosses (we have another one, which will be the topic of still another future devotion).

in-the-church-4-crucifixThe crucifix, particularly the corpus, can be uncomfortable to look at. The level of uncomfortable-ness can vary in degree.

The crucifix in the Chapel of Christ Triumphant at Concordia University Wisconsin is in a modern art style. It is clear that it is an artists’ rendition.

The crucifix at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and School is more realistic-looking.

There are others that show the crucifixion in all its gory glory.

The crucified Christ himself can cause discomfort.

People usually don’t have a problem with Jesus as he’s presented at Christmas – as a little baby in a manger.

They usually don’t have a problem with him as an adolescent teaching in the Temple.

And they usually don’t have a problem with the pictures of him walking and talking the highways and byways of Israel.

But strip him naked, beat him to a bloody-pulp, stretch him out on an old rugged cross and nail his hands and feet to the beams –that can cause heads and stomachs to turn.

But the discomfort the sight of the crucified Christ causes can be nothing to the agony and disgust of knowing that Jesus was crucified because of your sin and my sin!

The whole point of Jesus – his birth and his life – was to go to the cross. Jesus was born to take our place under God’s Law. He kept God’s Law perfectly his whole life.

But then Jesus took our sin – all the things we do when we don’t keep God’s Law perfectly – and paid the penalty for it on the cross!

Coming face to face with a picture of that death can be hard.

Coming face to face with the reality of that kind of love can also be uncomfortable! Because that is how much Jesus loves you and me. He willingly died on a cross to save you and me from all our sin, from death itself, and from the devil!

But when the Holy Spirit works on your heart through the Means of Grace (God’s Word and Sacraments) discomfort turns to joy!

Joy, because Jesus died for you but didn’t stay dead! He rose from the dead three days after dying!

Which is why there is also an empty cross in most sanctuaries.

Yes, Jesus died. But the cross is now empty of its corpus.

But it is NOT empty of its power!

For the cross – empty or otherwise – continues to point us to the one who died on it to save us from our sin!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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