A cross and a stone. Those are the images of Easter. One represents death. The other life. Without one, there is no need for the other.
Over the years, the cross has lost it's gruesomeness. We've prettied it up. We wear the reminder around our necks, we hang it on our walls. When we look at it, we don't see what the Jews of Jesus day saw. We don't see a symbol of death and oppression. We see only a symbol of hope. We see a symbol of sacrifice.
Yet, for centuries, the cross was a tool of oppression. The Jewish people did not use crucifixion as a form of punishment. It was reserved for the Roman government. And you didn't have to commit a horrific crime to find yourself hanging from one. You could steal something or speak out against the government. The cross wasn't just a tool of execution. It was a public deterrent to dissent.
And that's where Jesus died -- on a human government's tool to suppress revolt. He died on a hill in full view of everyone, his crime posted on a sign above His head. At any time, Jesus could have climbed off the cross. He could have taken over, sent everyone fleeing in the face of His awesome power. But He didn't. He stayed on that cross and died, bearing the weight of the sin of the world. All so we could be free -- not from an oppressive government, but from the separation from God. And in that moment, the cross became a symbol not of death and oppression, but a symbol of love.
It was big. It was heavy. It was unmoveable by one person. The stone that covered the entrance to the tomb was an obstacle to the living. Yet, even the heavy stone could not keep Jesus in the grave.
When the women arrived at the tomb on Sunday morning, that stone, that keeper of death, was rolled away. The tomb was empty. And it would stay that way. This was no mistake. No one had taken Jesus' body. He had been dead for three days and then came back to life.
Without the stone, there is no redemptive power in the cross. Without the stone, Jesus would just be another man who claimed to be God. It is only because of the stone that the words of John 3:16 mean anything. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Only a living God can promise eternal life. Jesus' death means nothing without His resurrection.
The cross is useless without the stone.
As Easter approaches, as we take our kids to Good Friday and Easter services, we need to help them understand that the importance of Easter lies not just in the cross but in the stone as well. Create a reminder of the importance that the tomb was empty.
Sometime this weekend, give your kids a cross made of twigs and a rock from the yard. Explain that they are reminders of the two events that make Easter so important. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. It represents the fact that Jesus loves us and wants us to have a relationship with Him. Jesus rose from the grave three days later. The stone represents the amazing power of a living God. It reminds us that Jesus is who He said He is, and He holds power even over death.
The cross and the stone. Two important reminders of what Easter means to us.