Do We Over-Celebrate the Cross?

A few nights ago, I was laying in bed and trying to go to sleep by doing a little reading.
I was reading Greg Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel?” when I came across this…

If Christ had remained dead like any other “savior” or “teacher” or “prophet,” his death would have meant nothing more than yours or mine. Death’s waves would have closed over him just as they do over every other human life, every claim he made would have sunk into nothingness, and humanity would still be without hope of being saved from sin. But when breath entered his resurrected lungs again, when resurrection life electrified his glorified body, everything Jesus claimed was fully, finally, unquestionably, and irrevocably vindicated.

Needless, to say, I was wide awake!

While we often celebrate the cross, it’s deadly image, and a Savior hanging as He breathed His final breath, we often forget just how essential the resurrection is.

A dead Savior wouldn’t have done.
A burried Christ would have failed to serve His purpose.
A resurrected Savior was what the world needed for redemption.

So, that’s what He did.

He got up!

That should motivate our life.
That should get our permanent celebration.

So, let me ask…

Do we over-celebrate the cross?


  1. I’m not real sure about over celebration, but something that I get on a soapbox a lot about is the empty tomb.

    Christ defeated death. We should walk in that victory not defeat. The empty tomb illustrates that. IMHO.

  2. I’ve often said that it is not the cross, but the empty tomb, that is defining scene of our faith. I’m not sure we actually can “over-celebrate” the cross, but I do know that it’s possible to “under-celebrate” the resurrection. We do it all the time.

  3. Zee

    that’s what i have been thinking during this Easter… so much stress on the Friday that when Sunday comes around, we’re still grieving in the upper room along with the disciples – and we’re supposed to know better since we know the entire story!

    thanks for the reminder, Jon.

  4. Great question…I have thought about this very one before…

    Maybe it’s asking a different one in its place, like…do we celebrate the Resurrection enough?

    When we have Communion, do we really, actually, sincerely…”Do this in remembrance of Me”

    Thanks for stirring this question up, it makes for some soul and Scripture searching.

  5. We can’t wear an empty tomb on a necklace!

    Seriously, I think we emphasize the cross because of the magnitude of the sacrifice it took to get to the resurrection. He was the Son of God, raising from the dead was easy for him. The cross shows the extent of his love.

    But you’re right. We focus so much on the cross that we forget the resurrection. And because of that, we forget that we too are raised up into a new life- our old selves died with Jesus on the cross.

  6. It’s important to remember the cross because it signifies the death of our sins as Christians…but, it is vital to live and breathe in the knowledge of the risen Savior who is today and forever will be Alive and Active for the Glory of God’s Kingdom and His Children.

  7. I’ve never heard anyone claim that Christ wasn’t crucified. (I’m sure some say that, though.)

    The defining belief for a Christian is that God raised Him from the dead.

    There are a lot of people that wouldn’t challenge the cross that would refuse to believe He rose from the dead.

    While I’ve personally made a mistake and thought that the cross was the ultimate moment in all of time (spurred by too much John Piper…), your thoughts here spur me to believe that the resurrection is the most important belief we could proclaim. Without the cross, there would be no resurrection.

    I also personally toy with the question of whether Christ’s suffering “meant” anything in regards to penal substitution or not. If his throat had been slit, I think His death would have been just as efficacious in regard to the cleansing of sin. (Just a personal thought…) His suffering was crucial to fulfill prophecy and further validate his Godhood, but I’m not sure that He earned our forgiveness based on his physical suffering. The shedding of blood could have been done without suffering.

    That oughtta be a canna worms. :)

  8. Great discussion here so far. While I do agree that we can’t over-celebrate the cross and that we do under-celebrate the resurrection….I also think we don’t focus much on the kingdom. Christ’s first proclaimation was to repent for the kingdom is near. He came to bring his kingdom. His conquer of death, forgiveness of sins, and path to righteousness brought the kingdom. The veil was torn and access was granted. We were created to be in communion with God, the death and resurrection restores his kingdom here. I think the new testament is more about the kingdom than we realize. hmmm….

  9. I often say that it is good to “study” Christian faith traditions outside your own. One of the reasons I say that has to do with the issue raised here. I was fortunate to sit for a brief tutelage under an Eastern Orthodox priest. He would often remark that there are two things that are markedly different concerning the eastern and western church (of course he was mainly speaking about Eastern Orthodoxy vs. Catholicism).

    First, he claimed that the west did not emphasize the person of Holy Spirit enough – he may or may not have a point there.

    The second difference is the focus of emphasis regarding the passion story. He claimed the west emphasized the crucifixion more, and the eastern orthodox more correctly emphasized the resurrection more.

    I think he was right, except that his conclusion was that the west needed to move.

    The truth is, the entire passion is what we ought to embrace. Without the decision to put his life on the line, the power of the resurrection would not have been possible. He had to go through “it” to overcome “it.”

    1. Really good stuff there! I think they both deserve MORE attention! It’s not that we really over emphasize the cross, it’s that we under emphasize both. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  10. David Harrison

    They do both deserve more attention….. It is interesting, though, to think about Jesus as THE Passover Lamb….. the true lambs that were sacrificed did not come back to life, but they atoned for the sins that were committed. So, in that light, our sins were atoned for by Jesus’ death….. the good part is that by his resurrection, it never has to be done again!

  11. Cory McDonald

    I don’t know if we over-celebrate the cross, but one thing we have done is turned the cross from what it actually means to being a decorative symbol. That is my one problem with the cross per-se is that it has become a decorative piece for people’s houses, cars, necklaces, etc.

    I agree that we under-play the resurrection. We tend to focus on the suffering and the death, but not as much time on the resurrection. Without the resurrection the cross would’ve made no difference. That defeat of death is imho one of the biggest pieces of our foundation of faith.

    1. It definitely is a cornerstone of our faith. We have definitely forgotten the harshness of the cross. It’s become something we see so often, we forget that it symbolizes the death that lead to the resurrection.

      As always, Thanks for sharing!

  12. “While we often celebrate the cross, it’s deadly image, … a Savior hanging as He breathed His final breath.”

    I guess it’s my Filipino Catholic background before becoming a Jesus freak, but this description you gave is the crucifix: a cross with the image of a man dying. The cross would be a simple, empty cross, which says that the Savior is no longer hanging on it because He is risen! So for me, the cross represents everything from His passion, death all the way to His resurrection. If this is overcelebrating it, then yes, I guess I do. ^_^ But what I’m really celebrating is the fullness of what Jesus has done for me. I’ll never get over that.


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