The place of the Cross in Christianity
What is Lent?
Lent is the 40-days (fasting period) from Ash Wednesday to Easter, excluding Sundays. It is a period of fasting, penitence, and self-denial, traditionally observed by Christians in preparation for Easter. In the words of authors of Encarta, “Originally, meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs were forbidden during Lent. However, in recent years the Roman Catholic Church has relaxed its laws on fasting. According to an apostolic constitution issued by Pope Paul VI in February 1966, fasting during Lent is obligatory only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On these days Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 may eat only one full meal. Catholics age 14 or older are required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and each Friday during Lent. Fasting practices vary widely among other Christian denominations and between individuals. Common practices include abstaining from meat, eating only one full meal each day, and fasting entirely one day each week.
“Among many Christians today, Lent is a time for doing penance by praying, studying the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, refraining from sin, and giving time or money to charities. Many give up something pleasurable during Lent, such as television, a favorite food, coffee, alcohol, or dining out.” – Encarta
“Good Friday” is the Friday before Easter Sunday which is observed in Christendom to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. It is a day of fasting, abstinence and penitence, and there is the religious view that “it is the only day of the year upon which Mass may not be said”.
On this occasion the observers hold a protracted three-hour service with ceremonies expressive of intense feelings of the agonies suffered by Jesus Christ. The altars are stripped have of decorations, the candles are unlit and the priests are dressed in black robes. Yet, this is said to be a good day.
The only reason which has been given for identifying this bloody day with the grand appellation of GOOD is that the death of Christ has brought redemption to making. This sounds quite plausible but viewed against the background of the Scriptures it is unjustifiable.
To those who were the enemies of light— of which Christ was and is the very embodiment, that day of his crucifixion was good and pleasant because it was the day their evil desire, conspiracy and machinations against the man whom they branded as a “deceiver” was accomplished. It could therefore be understandable why they revelled in their acts of atrocity while Jesus Christ and his disciples were grief-stricken. Prior to the crucial hour of the supreme test, Jesus Christ had forewarned his disciples: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”—Read John 16: 16-20
When the time came for him to bear the griefs of mankind he showed his preparedness to submit, as a loyal Son, to his Father’s will though he was fully aware of his foes’ evil motives to do the worst imaginable. Yet in an outburst of human feeling, he said to Peter, James and John: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matthew 26: 38) He was in such great agony of spirit that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. His disciples were all exhausted from grief, and they remained under the grip of sorrow until the gladsome news of his resurrection was broken to them.—Luke 22: 45; Mark 16: 9, 10.
In the light of these scriptural facts about the painful experience of Jesus Christ and his disciples, it does not stand to reason neither is it spiritually convincing for those who take sides with Christ to call or regard that day of his anguish and inglorious death as good.
The churches have no scriptural authority whatsoever for their mourning, abstinence and dreary ceremonies on “Good Friday’. Jesus Christ had long been resurrected and glorified, never to die again. He did tell his disciples that their sorrow would be turned to joy, and added, “YOUR JOY NO MAN TAKETH FROM YOU.” (John 16: 19-22) And so to continue to mourn every year for the risen and glorified Jesus is most unnecessary and very unscriptural.
Moreover, concerning the dead Paul the apostle admonished the Christians “that YE SORROW NOT, even as others (unbelievers) which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”. (1 Thessalonians 4: 13, 14) If Christians are not to mourn for the dead because of the hope of resurrection, why should the churches mourn for the Star of that hope who had long ago been raised to glory eternal in the heaven?
It is most unsafe to rely on men’s traditions at the expense of scriptural truth. And it is only when men apply their heart to reason as to accept the truth of Christ that they can be free indeed.—John 8: 32, 36.
What is Easter?
Easter was a pagan festival originally celebrated by the Anglo-Saxons in the spring equinox in honour of a Teutonic goddess known as Astarte or Eostre.
The word “Easter” appears once in the Holy bible at Acts 12: 4. All scholars of credit agree that it was a wrong translation of a Greek word for Passover. In the Bible Students Companion, William Nicholson wrote: ÉASTER—An improper translation; for the feast of the Passover is meant, Acts xii. 4. Easter was the name of a Pagan festival observed in spring by our ancestors, in honour of the goddess Astarte or Eostro, a Saxon goddess, the Ashtaroth of Syria. In all other places pascha is rendered Passover, the true meaning.”
Concerning Easter, the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible states that it was “originally the spring festival in honour of the Teutonic goddess of light and spring known in Anglo Saxon as Eastre. As early as the 8th century the name was transferred by the Anglo-Saxon to the Christian festival designated to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. In A. V. it occurs once (Acts 12: 4), but it is a mistranslation. The original is pascha, the ordinary Greek word for Passover. R. V. properly employs the word Passover.”—Page 145.
According to the Blacks Bible Dictionary, Easter is derived from “Eastre, (a) Norse goddess whose festival was observed at the vernal equionoz, akin to Lat. Aurora “dawn”…” –.
“Not mentioned in Scripture(except in the erroneous translation of A.V. Acts 12:4 of which the original Greek words pascha, Passover”)
The Encarta Encycopedia states “The Christian festival of Easter incorporates many pagan, or pre-Christian, traditions. The origin of its name is unknown. …scholars believe that it probably comes from Ēastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Germanic goddess of spring and fertility. ..Ēastre’s festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox—the first day of spring. Traditions associated with her festival survive today in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored Easter eggs. Eggs were originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and were used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.
“Such festivals, and the stories and legends that explain their origin, were common in ancient religions. …Wiccans and other neopagans continue to hold festivals in celebration of the arrival of spring.”
WHAT IS THE PLACE OF THE CROSS IN CHRISTIANITY?
NEITHER Jesus Christ nor his apostles attached importance to the literal cross. When ever they employed the word ‘cross’ for the edification of the believers it was in the figurative sense according to the Scriptures.
The truth is that testimony of all the apostles which is of great weight, attest to the fact that Christ was crucified on a TREE, not Cross. “: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and HANGED ON A TREE….” (Acts 5: 30-32). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Galatians 3:13) See also Acts10: 38-40;1 Pet. 2: 21- 24; Acts 13: 26-30.
The testimony of all the apostles which is of great weight, attest to the fact that Christ was crucified on a TREE, not Cross. “: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and HANGED ON A TREE….” (Acts 5: 30-32). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Galatians 3:13) See also Acts10: 38-40;1 Pet. 2: 21- 24; Acts 13: 26-30.
Tree” in the context with reference to texts just cited does not mean a perennial plant with branches but a piece of wood, beam or stake. The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines tree, among other things, as “a piece of wood, a stem or branch of a tree, a pole, stake, post, beam, wooden bar, etc:”
It was the tree or piece of wood improperly or wrongly translated “cross” in the Gospels that one Simon was compelled to carry after Jesus Christ to Calvary.
There is no one who has a good knowledge of the Bible who will therefore not have a feeling of disgust at the superstitions and unnecessary ceremonies with which the cross has been associated.
There is also a system of devotion known as “The Station of the Cross” or “The Way of the Cross”. It consists of prayers and meditations on 14 occurrences so-called experienced by Christ on his way to the crucifixion. For the stations themselves there must be 14 crosses. The devotion is conducted either by the worshipper personally, making the way from one cross to another and saying prayers, or by having the officiating priest move from cross to cross while the worshippers make the responses.
Did Jesus Christ command his disciples to perform the ceremony of “The way of the Cross”? Did any of his apostles do it? Or was there a prophecy that it should be done at later date after the death of the apostles of Christ? The right answer to all these are certainly in the negative.
One of the well-known learned defenders of the Roman Catholic Faith is John A O’Brien. With regard to “The Way of the Cross”, he, in his work The Faith of Millions, stands: “Some of the scenes depicted in the stations are contained in the Gospels; there are others which are not mentioned in the Scripture but which have come down to us through an oral tradition from the first century. Thus there is no scriptural authority for the three falls of Christ under the Cross, nor for the touching story of Veronical wiping the face of Jesus.”—Page 475 (Emphasis ours)
But the point is why should these additions of the false stories of the falls of Jesus and of Veronica e made at all when there is no scriptural authority for them? In Proverbs 30: 5-6. It is written: “Every word of God is pure…Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” See also Revelation 22: 18, 19.
The attitude of holding to the traditions of men contrary to the Scriptures is of the Scribes and Pharisees. And Christ told them:”…Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”—Matt. 15: 6-9.
No one, however privileged he may be, has the right to teach what is contrary to the Bible. Said St. Paul: “but though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed….”—Galatians 1: 8, 9.
Long before the advent of Jesus Christ the cross had been in use among ancient pagans as an instrument for the punishment of criminals. And so at the time of Christ the use of the word “cross” in a figure of speech to mean self-denial or suffering had come into vogue.
Thus Jesus Christ, long before his crucifixion, said to his disciples: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”—Matthew 10: 37, 38.
Some people have cited this text to bolster up their reason for wearing a cross around their necks and so on. But the text does not authorize anyone to bear or wear the “cross” of Christ. The disciple is asked to take his own cross. Not that of Christ.
And if anyone wishes to bear the cross of Christ let him carry a heavy beam or piece of wood like Simon and sweat himself so that he may show how faithful he is to Christ. Not when he is well dressed only to wear a fashionable cross of gold or silver as an ornament.
However, the word “cross’ in the text was used figuratively by Jesus Christ. He meant that whoever would be a worthy disciple should be prepared to deny himself in order to meet his demands. He further said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”—Matt. 16: 24. See also Mark 8: 34; Luke 9 23.
Similarly, St. Paul used the word “cross” to mean the suffering of Jesus Christ. He said: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”—1Corinthians 1: 17. Galatians 6: 14.
The instrument used by the enemies of truth and righteousness for the crucifixion of Christ was not of any importance to his disciples. What is of vital significance to Christians is his suffering and death by which he showed an example of faithfulness and loyalty to the Heavenly father and taught the lesson of sacrifice inspired by love for the salvation of mankind.
True Christians are concerned with the cross of Christ, not as an instrumental ornament to be displayed or carried about, but in the sense that it is rewarding edifying to suffer for Christ’s sake (Acts 5: 32-42: Philippians 1: 28, 29;1 Pet. 2: 21-24) A spiritual understanding of this builds up faith and other virtues in a true Christian by which he through God’s grace and power, is able to stand against Satan’s temptations and share in the sufferings of Christ without regret.