This season, in which we commemorate the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, comes as the earth passes into another renewal. This winter has been tough and long in the Midwest, so spring is certainly welcome. For me, Easter is not about bunnies and eggs, although I am partial to marshmallow bunnies. It is not about a shortened Sunday program. To each of us, it should have significant meaning.
On Good Friday, as I traveled back from a meeting, I was able to pass by the processional of the cross conducted by several of the local Catholic churches. Behind the cross, as it traveled down the street, was a line of parishioners waiting patiently for their turn to bear the similar burden to that which was laid upon the shoulder of Christ as He was led to His crucifixion. It was a solemn occasion as I pondered the meaning of the cross in my life.
For much of my religious life, I was instructed that the cross was not the central theme of the ministry of our Savior. instead, the focus was placed on His emergence from the tomb. It made sense since it also allowed us to differentiate ourselves from the Catholic and Protestant churches.
Since my awakening, I have been led to question everything I had been taught; everything that I had taken for granted. It has been an interesting journey these last years as I re-trod ground that was once unquestioned. I have taken the admonition of Paul to “prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21)
Procession of the Cross
As I reviewed the procession, my mind was drawn to a thought that I had never considered before. It was almost as if the question was placed in my feeble mind and the answer was played out before my eyes. What is the importance of the cross to me? Immediately, my mind was connected to a scripture that I had never associated with that question, found in the 27th chapter of Third Nephi where Christ defines His gospel.
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
As I rehearsed this in my mind and then later re-read the scripture, I came away with a change in perspective. According to the gospel as delivered to the Nephites by Jesus Christ, he was sent by the Father to be ‘lifted up upon the cross.’ I had never considered the crucifixion as part of the central theme of the restored gospel, but there it was in the words of our Savior. This act of laying down one’s life for a friend is placed as the central theme, in my opinion, of the gospel. There is no mention of the resurrection in this summary of the gospel. There is no reference to the tomb. The focal point of the gospel is that Christ was crucified on the cross to draw all men to Him. We then are to be lifted up, crucified as it is, by the Father to be judged of our works.
So what place should the cross be in our lives? At least one should consider the weight it is given in this exposition of the gospel. What better source than the words recorded of the Savior Himself?
The remainder of the description of the gospel is as follows in the same chapter:
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
We are told that those who repent and are baptized in His name will be filled and sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost. If we accomplish this, then when we are lifted up upon our own cross, we will enjoy the sanctification that comes from the cleansing of the Holy Ghost.
That is the gospel, the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel. At least if you believe, as I do, that the Book of Mormon contains the words of Christ and contains the fulness of the gospel. The message of the cross is carried in the restored gospel, the image of the cross as the means to draw all men unto Christ is played out in these words.
May you all take time this holy week to consider the message of Easter and the central theme of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we all come to understand what we must do to carry our own cross up our own hill to be lifted up by the Father.
What think ye?