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The Cross Speaks to us of Resurrection for All

By Daniel E. H. Bryant
For The Register-Guard
Published: Saturday, April 3, 2010 (reprinted here with permission)

 

There is a curious oddity about the Easter stories found in the Bible. Those stories recount witnesses to the empty tomb and witnesses to appearances of the risen Jesus, but not accounts of the Resurrection itself describing the moment when Jesus walked out of the tomb.

There is one ancient text, called the Gospel of Peter, which does describe that moment. It is a manuscript discovered in the 19th century and identified with a fragment from the second century, suggesting that it could be as old as the gospels in the Bible. Whatever its origins, a certain monk from the eighth century found it so valuable that he had it buried with him, clutched to his chest.

The Easter story in the Gospel of Peter sounds much like the story in the Gospel of Matthew with this notable addition. The soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus see two men descend from the sky and enter the tomb. Then it says, “Again they see three men leaving the tomb, two supporting the third, and a cross was following them … And they heard a voice from the skies that said, ‘Have you preached to those who sleep?’ And an answer was heard from the cross: ‘Yes!’ ”

I find it to be a fascinating story. In my imagination I have a conversation with that eighth-century monk, clutching this ancient text to his heart. “Do you really think that’s what happened?” I ask incredulously. “A moving cross that speaks? Who can believe that?”

The monk replies gently, “Can you not see truth beyond physical reality? Easter is not just about what happened long ago. It is about the cross that speaks of possibilities for new life for all those ‘asleep’ in this world or the next.”

The Gospel of Peter may not have scriptural status, but it is a story that invites me to consider the ways in which the cross speaks to me. Have I been asleep to the possibilities God offers in my life? Does the cross have something to say to the powers of death and destruction in this world? Are there ways in which we all need to “awake” to life all around us?

We have a tradition in our church that’s common to many churches. We call it “Flowering of the Cross.” On Easter morning an ugly cross stands barren at the front of the sanctuary. On cue, worshipers come forward with flowers in hand. It’s a bit chaotic, lots of people crowding around, looking for the right spot to place their flower.

As the music subsides and the last flower is placed, I am often amazed at the transformation that has occurred as I gaze on the once-ugly cross now overflowing with color and fragrance. A skilled artist could hardly create anything more beautiful to show the joy of Easter. It is the witness to resurrection then and now, possible not just for one, but for all. In that service, it is the cross that speaks to me.

 

Daniel Bryant is the senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Eugene.

 


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