There is a Christian praise song with the lyric: We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. A very different sacrifice than that of the Cross.
It is September 14th and for those who are not aware – it is Holy Cross Day. The one day per year that the Church makes a particular point of emphasizing the saving power of Jesus’ work on the Cross nearly 2000 years ago. There are some organizations within the Church who exist to emphasize the Christian service the Cross should inspire among all Christians throughout the year. They are the male only Societas Sanctae Crucis (AKA the SSC), the male and female membership Order of the Holy Cross, and the female only Order of the Daughters of the Holy Cross. I am sure there are others as well but these are the three I know about.
Most people are at least vaguely familiar with the story of the Cross – Jesus, Son of God, is sent from Heaven to Earth to live a perfect life but then be executed for the sins He did not commit. In the Apostle Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians (5:21) he explained it. For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God. That quick summary and the brutal account of the scourging and death upon the Cross are not really what people focus on today.
Today if you ask somebody what they think of when the Cross is mentioned they will likely answer (if anything at all) jewelry or (among a growing number) a tattoo. A few may answer a headstone but Cross shaped headstones are less and less frequent these days. Not many will answer sin, pain, sacrifice. That is not surprising really – very few people want to think or talk about pain or suffering. That is OK – there is something else we can – that we should – talk about.
When Jesus spoke of the Cross He said that when He was lifted up He would draw all people to Himself. He was foreshadowing the death He would suffer on the Cross – lifted off of the Earth and hanging to die. That was then, that was before the fact, that was when Jesus was still waiting to complete His mission on Earth. But today is a different day. Unlike Jesus looking forward to the day on the Cross we look back at that day and its ever-present meaning. The sacrifice is made – sin and death is conquered. Salvation is available to all who turn to Jesus and ask for the benefit of His passion to be applied to them – To all who seek to be justified, made right, in Christ.
Jesus, in His death on the Cross, burial, and resurrection redeemed mankind. He transformed how we should think of everything around us. The very first thing that had its meaning changed was the Cross. An instrument of torture and death is now the sign of love beyond measure.
When Christians today look at the absolute and perfect sacrifice of Jesus, the response should be praise, thanksgiving, and doing the will of God in a state of gratitude. In the words of the earlier mentioned song – We should bring a sacrifice of praise into the House of the Lord. Or, in the words of the Anglican prayer after receiving Communion, “… we thy humble servants entirely desire thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee…”
Even more than within the worship service – We must praise Jesus, we must exalt Him, we must lift Him up. Jesus said He would be lifted up on the Cross and people would be drawn to Him. We must lift Him up in our words and deeds – in what we say and what we do in the world every day. Does the stranger see the love of Christ in us? Do our actions, do our words, lift up Jesus – do we make people want to know more about Him – do we draw people to Him?
It is a Christian’s obligation to draw people to Christ so lift Him up every day. Lift Him up in your words. Lift Him up in your actions. Lift Him up in your worship. Because when Jesus is lifted up He will draw all people to Himself.
Almighty God, Who in the passion of Your blessed Son made an instrument of painful death to be for us the means of life and peace: grant us so to glory in the Cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer for His sake; who is alive and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, on God, now and forever, world without end, Amen.