For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2, NKJV)
Many will have seen pictures of the Notre Dame in Paris in the past week. The roof of this iconic, world famous, church building was completely destroyed by fire. Several of the media also showed a picture of the altar after the fire, with he golden altar cross seen glowing. Today, on Good Friday, my thoughts went back to this image, time and again.
Many wanted to see a sign in this cross. As if in all the darkness and smoke of fire and destruction the cross stands out and survives. Therefore we should focus our eyes on the cross. However, there was something in this all that struck me. The cross was empty. Usually the Roman Catholic Church portrays the cross with a statue of our Lord Jesus Christ still fixed to it. That is one of the differences between Roman Catholic church buildings and protestant church buildings. If protestant church buildings have a cross, then it is a cross without Christ. Remarkable, that in the Notre Dame it is the cross without Christ that stood out after all the destruction. As if it was saying: Christ is not here. He is not on the cross anymore. He has risen. Golgotha has happened. Jesus Christ died for our sins, on the cross. But now the cross is empty.
Therefore, not the cross should be the focus of our attention on Good Friday, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. That is a difference. The cross in the Notre Dame was an empty cross. It teaches us: He is not here. He cried out on the cross: It is finished (John 19:30). His work on the cross came to an end and we are reconciled with God.
This is the gospel that has to be preached to this world. Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. That is what Paul proclaimed to the Corinthians. That is what the apostles proclaimed to the world. That is the gospel that the Church still proclaims to this world. A stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
Good Friday, Easter: the world focuses on worldly things, even a cross in a destroyed church building. It is remarkable that the powerful in this world pledged to rebuild the Notre Dame, and pledged more than a billion of dollars to rebuild what the fire had destroyed. The Notre Dame, where the cross showed clearly that Christ is not there. The Notre Dame, a symbol of human ingenuity and craftiness. Not a sign of humility and repentance, but of human greatness and pride.
Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Not what the world wants to see. But we see Him, seated at God’s right hand. Him who appeared to His disciples on the first day of the week with the signs of His crucifixion in His hands, His feet and His side. Him, whom John saw as the Lamb as though it had been slain (Revelation 5:6). He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
He will not ask: how much did you give to rebuild the Notre Dame? But He will say to those who confessed Him on earth: ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34).