Then I really started thinking about the Cross.
As a Christian, I have to tell you that I am more often than not torn between the Cross and the Tomb. We so often celebrate the Cross and only one day, a week if we're lucky, the Tomb. From time to time, I've heard a preacher or writer here or there mention that without the Tomb, the Cross means nothing. Never have I heard that without the Cross, the Tomb is meaningless. It's always someone trying to emphasize the Tomb, victory over death and the promise of Eternal Life, who brings the two together - death and life. And I'm always like Yes! Of course we need the Tomb to make the whole thing work. Of course the Tomb is the key here.
But is it? It's here I think the whole thing is a circular mess.
The Cross was the climax. That much is for sure. The Cross was the most dramatic of the happenings, as it should have been. It was while the Son of God hung on the Tree that the earth turned dark for hours in the middle of the day. It was when He gave over His Spirit and surrendered Himself that the earth shook, the curtain tore, the rocks broke in two. It was in that moment that the soldiers believed, the disciples mourned, and His mother cried. The Cross was the show.
Do you remember what happened when He walked out of the grave?
Nothing. The earth did not shake or tremble; the skies did not darken or dance. Nothing marked His victory over death except stillness, silence, and an empty tomb. Nobody even knew until someone went looking for Him on that third day.
Now, you tell me which was the more important event.
It's a trick question. The answer is neither. At the Cross, the curtain tore because there was no more separation between man and God. God had restored the relationship that had gone rotten in an apple and had brought Himself back to His people - and His people back to Himself. The earth trembled and shook as the full power of God came again to rest on His people, to be in this place with us, to build a new temple in our flesh.
That moment mattered. That moment gave us the chance to touch Him, to love Him, to live with Him in a new way - not behind a curtain but with the Holy of Holies right inside of us. The shadow of the Cross did indeed bridge the chasm that existed between us and brought us into this glorious, gracious place where we can now live in the very presence of the fullness of God. Awesome.
At the Tomb, Christ defeated death. This, we always say. This, we know. It was that one final act that allowed us to have life eternal, to be with God and in the very presence of the fullness of our Father forever. Not even death can stand in the way. Not even the grave can keep us from Him. We will have life and have it most abundantly, as Jesus promised.
But the Tomb was more, too. The Tomb was the evidence of the prophecy. The Tomb was the showing that this was the Man, this was the Messiah. Had Jesus not walked out of that grave and fulfilled every written or spoken word about Him, had He not shown even this strength and power and authority, then we could forever question whether His sacrifice on the Cross was what it was. Did He atone for our sins? Or was He just another man dying?
He was not, He proved in an empty Tomb, just another man dying; He was a Messiah on a Cross.
It is the wholeness of both that gives us the full picture of Christ. Neither more important than the other. Each leading us back to its complement. The Cross and the Tomb are the story of Christ. They are our grace story. They are our redemption story. They are the story - together.
When we talk about the Cross or we talk about the Tomb, let us remember both. What good is a life in the presence of God if it ends in the dust and the ashes? Or what good is life eternal if a curtain still separates us from the Lord of All? The answer is no good at all.
Together, however, the Cross and the Tomb - these are good.