The transformation of the blood-stained wooden cross of Calvary to the diamond-studded gold cross of a cathedral may well signify man’s attempt to remove the offense of the cross. Throughout the centuries the blood of the cross has been a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek. And to make the cross more palatable to unregenerate religionists and intellectuals, some preachers and theologians have tried to substitute a symbolism quite at variance to that so carefully defined in Scripture. The message of the Word proclaims that the incarnate Son of God died on the cross, the voluntary victim of our human guilt—“delivered for our offences”—“made sin for us”—“given for us, the just One in the room of the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”

During the Lenten season and especially during the observation of Passion Week, the cross will be preached from every pulpit. Its symbolism, however, will be variously explained, with many deviations from the biblical definition. One serious error will be a hazy presentation of the cross, expressing indefinitely that in some incomprehensible way Jesus died for mankind and man becomes a partaker of the remission of sins. The cross proclaims, they will say, absolute forgiveness and confirms our confidence in the grace of God. The cross, thus, brings peace to the troubled conscience and gives assurance that all is well. But this will be a proclamation of forgiveness independent of the fact of the atoning sacrifice.

Some will picture the cross as depicting a sublime and perfect surrender of self: Christ surrendering to the will of God even though it meant cruel suffering and agony. And the lesson drawn from this will be that men must partake of this spirit and imitate Christ’s ...

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