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  • Jim Etherton

Why the empty cross?

Have you ever wondered why the main symbol of the Christian church is a cross? It is rather strange when we think that the symbol of the church is a form of Roman execution used 2,000 years ago. Why would a church which proclaims good news, love, forgiveness and new life have an ancient method of execution as its logo?

Even considering that Jesus Christ suffered execution on a Roman cross, this is still inadequate as an explanation. What organisation would choose the method of execution of its founder as its logo? Surely any organisation would choose something more positive with which to identify?

Yet, the four Gospels which give an account of Jesus’ life and ministry also focus disproportionately on the events surrounding his death. Why would this be? Surely it is because to understand Jesus’ life and ministry, we need first and foremost to understand his death.

Firstly, the gospels teach us that Jesus died willingly, submitting himself to suffer for all the wrongs done by men and women down the ages.

Secondly, they teach us that Jesus has restored our broken relationship with God by dying in our place – so that we do not need to experience complete separation from God either now or in eternity.

Thirdly, the Gospels explain that Jesus overcame death. He was definitely dead and buried on the evening which we commemorate on Good Friday. But within three days, on the morning of the Sunday which we celebrate on Easter Sunday his tomb was empty and people were starting to meet the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Fourthly, we learn that the death and resurrection of Jesus proves that he was not just a man – he was and is God in bodily form.

If Jesus had died without being resurrected then the church would never have come into being. But the church exists as a living witness to his death and resurrection and all that means for our life today. So what symbol could represent this better than the cross on which Jesus died? – An empty cross because he is risen and lives forever.

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