Today is Good Friday, acknowledged (if not necessarily “celebrated”) by Christians all over the world as the day Jesus was crucified. The events of that day have come to represent Christianity itself, as the cross and crucifix are now universally recognized symbols used by nearly every Christian faith.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not alone in eschewing the use of these symbols, but why don’t we use them? Given that so many believe we are not Christians, why don’t we prevent that misunderstanding by adopting the cross into our religious iconography? This beautiful Easter hymn gives a pretty compelling reason.
He is risen! He is risen!
Tell it out with joyful voice.
He has burst his three days’ prison;
Let the whole wide earth rejoice.
Death is conquered; man is free.
Christ has won the victory.
He didn’t “win the victory” by suffering in the garden or dying on the cross, although both of those things were essential parts of his Atonement. Jesus was required to pay the price for every sin, sickness, and sorrow of mankind. The events that took place in Gethsemane and Golgotha are incomprehensible to me and invaluable to each of us.
But the final victory was won when he rose from the grave, shattering death’s hold on humanity, erasing the effects of the Fall, and bringing hope to everyone because death is no longer the end. His resurrection was the final necessary step to ensuring our salvation. Without it, what good would any of the rest of the Atonement be?
President Gordon B. Hinckley explains the significance of the resurrection beautifully in his 2005 Ensign article, “The Symbol of our Faith“:
“On Calvary He was the dying Jesus. From the tomb He emerged the Living Christ. The cross had been the bitter fruit of Judas’s betrayal, the summary of Peter’s denial. The empty tomb now became the testimony of His divinity, the assurance of eternal life, the answer to Job’s unanswered question: ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ (Job 14:14).
“Having died, He might have been forgotten, or, at best, remembered as one of many great teachers whose lives are epitomized in a few lines in the books of history.
“Now, having been resurrected, He became the Master of life. Now, with Isaiah, His disciples could sing with certain faith, ‘His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’ (Isa. 9:6).”
We don’t wear the cross because we celebrate the risen Lord. Rather than focusing our worship on his agony, we “come with high and holy hymning” to “chant our Lord’s triumphant lay.”
“He is not here: … he is risen, as he said” (Matt. 28:6). Do those words not make you want to shout for joy? He has won! He has redeemed us!
He is risen!