As the father of a newborn, I’m often caught with the stare of exhaustion – or as a friend called it – the “Thousand Yard Stare.” I don’t really focus on anything, but can be found in a trance, looking out into space with no particular though on my mind, other than to just keep looking “out there.”
It’s not a bad thing. In-fact, usually my mind is trying to process something and is putting the rest of my body on hold while it computes.
As we’re approaching Easter, I’ve been stuck trying to get something to compute. I came into our church building the other day to get some materials for one of our ministries, and I was stopped cold by the sight of the cross hanging on the wall.
For Christians, the cross fundamental to our faith. We wear it around our necks, and paste it on our Facebook pages. Churches have one hanging on every wall, and Catholics keep Christ hanging on the crucifix. Countless authors talk about a cross-centered life. Preachers and theologians point to how every sermon needs to point to either the cross, or our need for it. I see picture after picture, renaissance painting and wannabe hipster t-shirts that uses the cross as the centerpiece to depict a Christian message.
But today, on Easter of all days, I find those who look to the cross to be far too short-sighted.
Call me a heretic, but our identity is not in the cross, nor should the cross be our eternal focus. If we look at the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we can’t let our focus stop there, we have to look beyond the cross, and stop identifying ourselves with the symbol, but what came next.
Easter Sunday (or Good Friday depending on what service you attended) we’re told the story of how Christ was nailed to a cross on a hill, buried in a tomb, and then rose again three days later. We hear about how He appeared to Mary, to Peter, to the rest of the disciples. But the easter story tends to be told, and ends with “He is Risen, He is Risen indeed!”
What came next wasn’t just the resurrection, and fulfillment of the prophecy, All too often, I think that a number of Christians forget that the death and resurrection of Christ were vehicles, not dead ends. I call them such, because his death not only satisfied God’s wrath, but it became a way to usher in a fresh experience of the Kingdom of God for all. It forged a new covenant between us and the Father, tore the veil between us, and gave us direct access to Him.
Hebrews 12:2 tell us:
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Yes, Christ endured the crucifixion. But not just be our scape-goat, but because of the Joy awaiting Him. The joy that He, time and again describes, as the time he spends with us, and the Father. The joy of our relationship – through Him – directly with the father. The joyful song the angels sing when even one person comes to know Him.
If the Cross were the end-all, be-all of our faith, why then did He send His Holy Spirit? Why do we see miracles, performed in His name, as we experience the Kingdom today?
The same passage in Hebrews commands us to fix our eyes on Him, not the cross – and where is he? Seated at the hand of the Father – in the Kingdom.
The cross was nothing but a signpost, albeit a significant one. But the sig doesn’t say “Dead End.” It says “rest area” because the journey ahead is long, and windy.
So, I ask you all: Are you shortsighted, staring at the cross? Or, do you have the “thousand yard gaze” that’s looking beyond to our future with the Father?