Is Jesus still on the cross?
Yes. No. Both.
Ash Wednesday begins the traditional season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter (Lent literally means “Forty”). So what?
“Old, dead tradition stuff.” That was my summation of the season before I became a Jesus-follower. Even for some time after my conversion, I thought, “What do I need with ‘tradition’? I’ve got Jesus!”
But now? That ‘tradition stuff’ helps me connect more deeply with Jesus. How? By providing a season for me to ponder what’s unfinished and still resistant in me to Christ’s work. Just as meditating on Scripture helps me focus on who I am in Christ, Ash Wednesday and Lent help me focus on what I have yet to become.
The “Ash” in Ash Wednesday represents the “dust” from which life is drawn (“ashes to ashes, dust to dust”). But it also reminds me that my old life, the old me, is dead, turned to ash. And that the new life, the Christ-life, is still being formed.
Christ’s atonement tore a cross-shaped hole in the veil between death and life, between us and eternity. And so some churches use an empty cross to celebrate his finished work, our salvation made complete. But others use a crucifix to commemorate his presence in the ongoing work of making us complete. Which emphasis is correct?
Both. He ascended to prepare a place for us (John 14:3). But he is also present with those who pick up their cross and follow him daily (Luke 9:23). Interestingly, quantum physics casts its vote for both: because time as we perceive it–an endless progression from “finished” toward “not-yet”–isn’t real. Time simply is. Just as most of the stars we see flamed out eons ago, but are still there, Christ’s work on the cross was completed 2,000 years ago, but is still there.
I’m not alone on my cross. He is with me.
And so, even as the ashes are placed on my forehead tonight, I will think of both the crucifixion and the resurrection. Because:
“I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, to be conformed to His death that by any means possible I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or am complete, but I press on…”