Rev. Fr. Kyle L. Doustou Exaltation of the Holy Cross
September 13-14, 2014
The Power of the Cross
“For you placed the salvation of the human race on the wood of the Cross,
so that, where death arose, life might again spring forth
and the evil one, who conquered on a tree,
might likewise on a tree be conquered,
through Christ our Lord.”
These are the words from today’s Preface…words that we’ll hear sung in just a few moments. And they blow my mind. There’s not a screenwriter, or poet, or playwright that has ever existed or will ever exist that can top the brilliance of the story of Jesus Christ, the God-man. George Stevens capitalized on this in his 1965 film The Greatest Story Ever Told. A better name for it could not be found. It’s a story of unmatched action and drama…a story of deep mystery and intrigue…a story of unbridled passion and romance…it’s a story of complete tragedy and devastation, and it’s a story of unsurpassable glory and joy. It’s a story that climaxes upon two intersected wooden beams stuck into a hill outside of Jerusalem. Upon these beams hangs a man, but not just any man…the God-man. He hangs and He bleeds…He sweats, He gasps for air…and after hours of pure agony, He dies. Ecce homo…behold the Man…behold the God-man…raised up before our eyes not on a stunning throne of glory, but on a blood-stained tree of death. It wasn’t the Roman soldiers that kept Him there. It wasn’t the Jewish leaders that kept Him there. It was love that kept Him there. A love beyond words…a love that far surpasses anything we could ever dream of. He embraced the wood of the Cross because of His love for you. Behold the love of your God. Behold the price of your salvation. Behold the Cross.
|Hail, O Cross, our only hope!|
For the past 2,000 years, those who have professed faith in Christ have taken the Cross as the sign and symbol of their faith. The Cross is everywhere…in our churches, in our homes, even on our very selves. But step back for a moment and think about it…the absurdity of it all. Whether it’s gold or silver, wood or stone…whether it’s beautifully ornate or disturbingly grotesque…it’s two-intersected beams joined together for the purpose of execution. A wretched instrument of torture and death was hallowed and sanctified by God Himself Who hung upon it. His agony becomes our glory…His death becomes our life…His Cross becomes our salvation. We exalt the Cross and we bask in its glory because on it God reveals Who He is…the Eternal Lover…and who we are…His beloved. Greater love than this no one has. Behold how much you are loved. Behold the Cross.
In the Garden of Eden, the pure love between Creator and Creature was known and experienced intensely. The Scriptures tell us that God walked with Adam and Eve…and in the unimaginable love that He had for them, He provided them with paradise. Man and woman, created in the image and likeness of God Himself, were the crowns and pinnacles of all creation. Unable to accept that God would pour His love out on fleshly creatures formed from the dust of the earth, the Devil rebelled against God, rejected His love and His glory, and in His hatred and bitterness set out to destroy Adam and Eve. The cunning serpent, the evil one himself, tempted man and woman in disobedience to God. In the middle of their paradise garden, at the Tree of Life, the evil one conquered God’s beloved creation, robbing them of their splendor and glory, and created a chasm between God and man. Rejected and spurned by His own beloved, God could only seal His heavens from man and woman…for now bathed in sin they could not bathe in glory of God’s own life.
But this would not be the end…far from it. Unable and unwilling to let mankind rot away in sin, God promised to send a Savior…one Who would redeem His people and set them free from the chains of sin they fashioned for themselves. Little did they know that this Savior, Who would come in the fullness of time, would not simply be a great and blessed man…but would be God Himself. God would become Man. He would become a part of creation. He would have bones and a heartbeat, just like us. He would cry and shed tears, just like us. He would experience hunger, fatigue, and loneliness…He would be able to smile at us and touch us and eat with us. Before our very eyes, though we did not know it, God was again in our midst, walking with us as He did in the Garden of Eden, preparing to undo what had been done.
It had been the evil one who hung in the tree of life in the beautiful garden, waiting to tempt mankind. But in the forsaken garden of Calvary, on the Cross, the very tree of death, it was the God-man Who hung, waiting to save mankind. It had been the evil one who exalted himself as a master of wisdom, luring man and woman to him with his cunning words and persuasive ways. But it was God who humbled Himself as a slave and as a servant, drawing man and woman back to Him with His own self-sacrifice. It had been the evil one who, through disobedience, conquered life and brought death. But it was the God-man who, through complete obedience, conquered death and brought life. The saga of our salvation begins at a tree and it is brought to fulfillment at a tree. Behold the Cross.
And so, as we go about our days, weighed down by the burdens of life or even distracted by its pleasures, let us not forget the Cross. Everywhere we go, it follows us…serving as a reminder of God’s great love and of His great sacrifice for us. And it calls us to itself…it calls us, as the One Who hung upon it calls us, to take up our own crosses and to die for the sake of love. The Cross calls us out of complacency…it calls us out of selfishness…it calls us to death of self so that we might live. Let us then ever glory in the Cross of Christ and bask in its great mystery all the days of our life.