Where exactly does the cross play into Christian faith? As a Mormon, I didn't particularly like the cross - to be blunt, I hated it. It was a constant reminder of a dead Jesus. It made me think of the "Jesus freaks" who were "mean" to me simply because I was a Mormon and wanted to deny that I loved Jesus as much as they did. I hated the cross. To me, it was a sad idol replacing Jesus in the lives of His "believers".
Off and on throughout this journey out of the LDS church, I've wondered what part the cross plays in Christianity.
As God softened and opened my heart throughout my journey, while still LDS I purchased a cross on a necklace and in secret, wore it for months. After a month of wearing it, I showed it to Steve who was a bit disturbed that I had a cross. After the initial shock wore off, he was okay with me wearing it - so long as we were not around LDS, especially not on Sundays when we were so busy with church stuff.
I had always believed the Atonement was a three step process. It began in the Garden, it just so happened to lead to Calvary and a cross, and finally it ended with an empty tomb. I've never taken any parts of this out and have never felt comfortable with taking out any of these steps. However, I notice more and more that focus is always on "the cross". Yet, even I have been becoming more and more drawn to it. Finding it beautiful and a symbol of my faith.
It's curious to me because I don't see how or why the focus is there and not on the entire journey Jesus took. I don't get it. Even now, six months later. For someone to state that the work that Jesus was sent to do - to redeem mankind and overcome death - was finished and completed on the cross, is confusing to me.
Jesus bore the weight of our sins in the Garden (Luke 22:44) - "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." He endured God's wrath poured out upon Him and took the beating we deserved, and died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And on the third day - He overcame death and rose, leaving an empty tomb.
So how or why Christians separate all these events and focus solely on the cross, leaves me dumbfounded. If you take out the Garden - then Jesus didn't accept our sins upon Himself. Recall that when the Jews sacrificed the "sin" goat - they PLACED their sins upon that goat before killing it. If they were to simply kill the goat, but didn't place their sins on the goat - would that goat still be their cleansing sacrifice?
If you take out the empty tomb, then Jesus was just another man who made many claims He couldn't live up to.
So why the cross?
As I discussed this with my friend and mentor Barbie, she reminded me that the cross is offensive to those who deny it.
We discussed how non-Christian religions who also believe in Jesus deny the cross - they shift the focus from that moment to others. Like perhaps the Garden and the empty tomb?
I'm not sure why this is such a big deal for me - it would seem it was easier for me to accept the Trinity than it is for me to move off of this and stop meditating on it. Yet, I keep returning to this. Why the cross? Why not the empty tomb or the garden? Why focus so much on death and not LIFE or obedient sacrifice?
Finally, why would the cross be offensive to those who deny it?
Perhaps I just overthink things - but I'd love to get to the bottom of this. :P