• Rev. Steven R. Giddens

The Empty Cross:

The New Hope




During my forst Easter service as a Pastor, I was giving a children’s sermon off the cuff, as in, ‘I hadn’t pre-planned it’. I had been raised around multiple denominations and spent loads of time as an uneducated pluralist. As such, I never understood the difference between the crucifixes with Jesus on them, as seen in more Orthodox and Roman settings, and the plain ‘empty’ cross. As I was reviewing my Easter sermon a thought occurred to me, "It's about hope!" Rather than skip the children's sermon, since there weren’t any children present, I gave an impromptu reflection on this revelation. With no offense meant to the Catholic or Orthodox faiths, Jesus on the cross serves as a visual reminder that we as Christians should remember the sacrifice of Jesus. We should remember the pain, the anguish, the torment, and torture. We should remember the suffering of the man, the flesh cleaved from the bone. Jesus on the cross with the signs in three languages serves as a reminder that we, as mere humans, failed to recognize Christ in our midst and accept him for what he truly was. While I wholeheartedly believe that these are good reflections for the faithful and the penitent I wonder if this is where the good ol’ "Catholic guilt" comes from? By seeing this man betrayed, beaten and left to die daily we remind ourselves that we did not have enough faith and that we did not believe and trust in the Light and true Word. We are reminded that we are fickle and frail and that people with good intentions in a group can make bad decisions in haste to appease the other. This image leaves us with so much guilt and shame. Again, worthy of reflection and prayerful meditation but still, why? Isn’t the crux of the crucifixion of Jesus the resurrection? Isn't the primary emphasis in the story on the women entering an empty tomb, greeted by an Angel of the Lord telling them, “He is not here for he has risen.” – Matthew 28:6? As Christians, aren’t we believers in the miracle at the tomb? Shouldn’t we want the cross to be just as empty as the tomb? Our reformed cross is not lacking in Jesus, no, rather it serves as a reminder that yes, Jesus was here but alas... He is raised! An empty cross is a symbol of that hope in immortality, the hope of God’s promises to humanity, the hope of restoration and the hope of resurrection. An empty cross is therefor the symbol for hope for humanity.A guiding principle for the ages that God is great in keeping promises and that our Lord is our Savior. That Jesus went before us and showed us the way, that we too shall rise and ascend to Heaven thanks to power of the Holy Trinity.