Faith In Christ Crucified
If I was faced with the passion of Jesus, would I tell Jesus to “Come Down from the Cross?” Probably I would, since I could not help but want to see this man do a marvelous act that could make me into a believer. Would it be for vanity? Yes, because my intent would be to see it as a spectacle or an event. It would not change my heart. But why didn’t Jesus come down from the Cross? Is it because He is not God or was He afraid to be killed again by those who put Him on the Cross? I believe that none of these questions will give me a good answer. Jesus, as Peter Kreeft writes in his book, “Prayer for Beginners” stayed on the Cross not by nails, but “Only naked faith sustained Him then.”(pg 46) To have your hands and feet pierced by nails against wood, being left to hang in embarrassment until death takes an enduring soul with faith to embrace this type of punishment. Only a man who is truly God could take such abuse. Our purpose must be to seek the reason for His dreadful death, as it can only be answered through faith. We know this sacrifice was an act of faith, that Jesus did this for love of us. Jesus chose to endure the pain, the suffering, and later die for love of His creation. Using His power to come down from the Cross would not satisfy the hearts of the lukewarm; rather, it would be, as Peter Kreeft writes, “Impossible for them to believe in Him.” (pg 46)
I am reminded of a speech by Bishop Fulton Sheen in which he describes a man who encounters the Man on the Cross. He says, “This Man heard someone crying in pain. He encountered this Man on the Cross and wanted to take His pain away. He told the Man on the Cross, ‘I will take you down’, as he began trying to pull away the nail from one of His hands. But the man on the cross said, ‘No, leave them there.’ The man could not understand why he had to leave the nails, so he pleaded with the Man on the Cross, ‘but I can’t bear to hear your pain.’ The Man on the Cross said, ‘Leave me here. Not until every man, woman and child believes in me can you bring me down from the Cross.’”
The Christian is challenged to believe in Christ’s power and majesty through faith and not by sight. The reason the Man did not escape the pains of the Cross is to give us a reason why we should carry our own. Peter Kreeft writes, “If He had come down from the Cross, He would have made it impossible for them to believe in him, for He would have substituted sight for faith. That is why He does not take us down from our crosses: so that we do not substitute feelings and experiences for faith.” (pg 46-47)
We could demand that Jesus come down from His Cross, or we could take Him down while He is alive; faith is given to us to believe that this act of sacrifice is for our salvation. Only Christ can answer our “whys” about His death, since He is the Truth. In my own prayer life I had a very hard time meditating upon this meaning of my faith in the Crucifixion, especially as a Catholic Christian. Once I thought I knew it well. I was asked to give a personal writing on the meaning of Christ Crucified, and how we as Catholics express it through the symbol we wear, the crucifix. I thought it would be easy since I am Catholic, but it wasn’t at all. The meaning of His Sacrifice did not sink into my heart, because I only knew Him from books, and not in an intimate way. I became embarrassed by this, “Why did I dupe myself into believing that I knew Him well, when in fact I knew very little of Him.” I then began to spend time before Jesus in the Tabernacle of my Church, meditating upon the golden Crucifix carved at the door. I continued my visitations to the Tabernacle in my church for more than four months. I began to see my faith in Him grow. Every day this became evident to me as I looked at my life as it was slowly changing. I could notice the lives of those around me in their suffering where I had been so indifferent to it. I could see joy and love in troubled spots in my community where I thought it could not exist. I began to believe deeply in the virtue of faith which led to hope and love without reading books. It came through the act of faith through meditating before this powerful symbol, the Crucifix. To this day I never stop thanking God.
I can see why Peter Kreeft writes, “This hiding is one of His most precious gifts, and one for which he is hardly ever thanked.” The reason why He is never thanked is because we want answers to come easy. We want God to come to us like a plate of food set down before us at table. God calls us to Himself like the aroma of food calls us to what smells so good. It takes our act of rising and our desire to know that we may find the truth in what we will receive. Faith is truly a precious gift. As it sustained Jesus on the Cross through love and obedience to His Father, it can truly sustain us for love and obedience to Jesus through faith. We can be truly thankful for this precious gift of faith. I beg of you, youth and young adult leaders, abandon sin and surrender your very lives to Jesus today!
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