Sunday evening as I sat in a nearly empty hall watching and listening to the video of Shane’s sermon from Proverbs, my eyes were drawn to the big cross that hangs on the wall above the platform. It has been there for many years, but this past Sunday evening it caught my attention as perhaps never before. The lights in the hall were dimmed for the video feed and the red LEDs encased in the black plexiglass cross illuminated its shape in a most striking way. I smiled as I thought, “The cross shines in the darkness.” Perhaps the cross shines the most visibly when it is dark. That was true Sunday night, technically and aesthetically but, for the Christian, it is true experientially.
In many ways, the cross is a strange religious symbol. The cross in biblical times was the means of capital executions—the death penalty. For Christians to glory in the cross is to celebrate the death of our leader. Christianity is the only religion that celebrates the death of its founder. A British comedian once quipped, “When Jesus comes back, I don’t think he is going to want to see a cross.” After all, the cross was the means of his cruel death. But the comedian missed the point: The cross of Christ is celebrated because it was where Jesus secured the greatest victory of all time and, quite literally, for all eternity. When Jesus Christ returns to earth, there will be no need to see the cross for he will be collecting the rewards of that cross: a completed kingdom. Then there will be no darkness ever again.
When the skies darkened on that afternoon so long ago—from noon to 3:00 PM—the cross of Christ was the focus of God’s attention. It too was bordered by red: the crimson blood of the sinless Son of God. Though the people that day must have been both mystified and terrified in the darkness (after all, this was not merely a solar eclipse since those last, at most, six minutes, and it was the wrong time of year for an eclipse), some doubtless continued to curse and mock the Saviour of the world.
Unlike the spiritual and emotional tranquillity I enjoyed Sunday night in the presence of the plexiglass cross, Jesus experienced the horror of becoming a curse and therefore being abandoned by his Father on that “old rugged cross” (Galatians 3:13; Mark 15:33–34).
But as horrifying, and as humanly ugly as that scene was, nevertheless the holiness, faithfulness, and love of God were illumined by what God, in Christ, was doing on that cross. The darkest hour in history, spiritually, was perhaps also the darkest hour astronomically and, in it, the cross shone bright.
We can learn from this that, when it is darkest, the cross often shines brightest. In the words of Paul, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Brothers and sisters, in case you haven’t noticed, the world is experiencing a kind of “eclipse” from what, in recent times we thought were sunny days. The darkness of disease, death, economic depression, and a host of other challenges are currently making our world pretty dark. But the cross still shines forth the holiness, faithfulness, and love of God for his people.
V. Raymond Edman famously said, “Don’t doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” By the light of the cross-shaped gospel, we have heard God’s promise, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things (i.e. justification and sanctification and glorification!)?” (Romans 8:32). Yes, it’s dark; therefore, look up and see that the cross shines.
Looking with you,