For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
A wooden triptych sits on my desk at home. Four or five inches tall, it was carved from a single piece of wood. Human figures rise in relief from the walnut background.
On the left, a robed figure stands erect, hands together in prayer. A soldier holds a sword directly in front of him, point down, on the right. The middle panel is Jesus, arms wide on the cross.
Each time I return to my desk, I pick up the tryptic, kiss the relief of Jesus and pray, “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. By your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
This sounds like nonsense, of course. How does a crucified man, suffering excruciating pain and degradation redeem anything? It is the very opposite of success, power, status, wealth or any of the other things we are told we should want.
It makes no sense, until you see … really see … a mother holding and caressing her infant, or a teacher going that extra mile for a troubled child or any of a thousand other instances where love goes out of its way expecting no reward … other than the sheer grace of loving.
Then it becomes clear that if anything is going to save this world it is the willingness to give yourself away, loving beyond any and every expectation.
Jesus dies on the cross, rejected, tortured, humiliated by purveyors of merciless power, eager to demonstrate that they owned him and could do what they like.
But they didn’t own him. He refuses to surrender to the hate that kills him, breaking history’s ugly cycle of paying back insult with injury, hate with more hate. He lives the Love who lives in him right to the end, blessing those who curse him, showing mercy to the merciless, grace in the face of evil.
There’s nothing about the cross that suggests power, yet only this has the power to save us from ourselves.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
By your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Pr. David L. Miller