… Jesus began to explain … that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life
Matthew 16:21 (NIV)
If the story of Christ’s death on the cross ended at the cross, nothing would be as it is. The cross would not be the watershed from which we number our days, nor the milestone between the ancient and new world. It would not be a symbol of succour to a needy world, it would not be the central event by which we reckon our relationship with Him and it would not be the key that unlocks the door to immortality.
But thankfully, the cross was not the end of the story. Three days after Christ’s death on the cross, came the miracle of the resurrection. Christ’s resurrection makes all the difference. The resurrection obliterates the doom and gloom of the Place of the Skull. Seen in the context of the resurrection, the cross, rather than being the darkest of memories, becomes the emblem of the One who is the light of the world (cf. John 9:5).
The great sequel changes everything. Because of the resurrection, Christians have this responsibility: When we explain the cross we must tell our audience it’s an empty cross. The Christian and Missionary Alliance preacher and author, A.W. Tozer, in The Pursuit of God says, “The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished … After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual experience the presence of the living God.”
“Some of us stay at the Cross,
Some of us wait at the tomb,
Quickened and raised with Christ
Yet lingering still in the gloom.
Some of us bide at the Passover Feast
With Pentecost all unknown:
The triumphs of grace in the heavenly place
That our Lord has made His own.
If the Christ who died had stopped at the cross,
His work would be incomplete;
If the Christ who was buried had stayed in the tomb,
He would only have known defeat.
But the Way of the Cross never stops at the Cross,
And the way of the tomb leads on,
To victorious grace in the heavenly place,
Where the Risen Lord has gone!”
The Way of the Cross – Annie Johnson Flint [Source unknown]