I couldn't sleep, so I got online to check out the news of the day. I came across a story about Billy Graham who, at 95, has given what he's calling his most important message to America- a message of hope. Expecting something profound, I went to his website & watched the 30 minute video called "My Hope America" .
A grandfatherly Billy Graham, nestled in his chair, recounted the story
of Jesus & the cross with a kind, gristly voice. The camera
panned over old photographs of Billy's crusades & zoomed in slow
on various rustic renderings of the cross hanging on his walls. The
comfort of the country was then contrasted by the harsh reality of a guy
& a gal from the city relating to us the horrors of their
wayward lives & of course, how they found Jesus.
Mr. Graham's message remained the same- the cross is offensive & Jesus endured the shame & punishment we deserved- we are sinners, but the gift of life is free & all we have to do is believe, that is, commit our lives to Christ. After Mr. Graham invited all to pray the sinner's prayer, there was a slightly dramatic song, accompanied by people of all walks of life making their way through a soft lit field. They clamoured their way up a hill & with wide eyed wonder, they stopped & beheld a cross that a backwoods carpenter had been building throughout the video. Suddenly, the cross' shell of gnarled wood crumbled away to reveal another cross beneath it with writing on it. I couldn't tell if the words were names or people's sins, but there it was, with a ray of sunlight behind it as it stood majestic amidst the rolling green mountains...
As I listened to Mr. Graham's message, I thought to myself, "I've heard all this before", but for some reason, it still felt like something was missing. And then it hit me... all of Billy's crosses were empty. In the place of Jesus' body were nails or a crown of thorns, but no Jesus. He spoke about Jesus' suffering, but there was no Jesus to be found. What makes an empty cross challenging or offensive? Nothing that I can see. The message of the Gospel (Paul says), is Christ crucified. Mr. Graham hit the nail on the head in this regard.
Its strange to think that for many Christians, the image of Christ on a Cross is actually more offensive than a bare one...Yet they will only use a bare one while they ramble on about embracing the offense of the cross!