Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Illustrating the cross

Easter is a brilliant time of year for telling our friends the exicting news about what God has done for them in sending his son who dies for us. It is a time when it is natural to speak about God's love and justice and Jesus willing sacrifice on our behalf, in out place.

But it does pose some difficulties for those preaching the cross, one of the major ones being how to illustrate what happens there. Often preachers use stories like this:

Clive and Dave grew up together they were close friends, but one went to uni and the other didn't they gradually drifted apart. Clive went into the law, Dave took an altogether different path. Until one day as Clive who had now become a judge realised it was his friend Dave who was up in front of him. As he heard the evidence it was obvious Dave was guilty, but this was his friend, what would he do. Clive passed sentence on Dave giving him to most severe fine he could, then took off his gown and wig and paid Dave's debt for him.

Often an illustration or one like that is used. But there are a number of problems with it. 1. It just doesn't ring true to life, 2. Sin is far more serious than just a fine - it holds the death sentence, 3. The judge is not perfect as God is and so on. It is the same problem with any modern equivalence illustrations we try to use, it clouds some parts of what is happening at the cross even as it seeks to clarify others.

Some say that we should therefore avoid all attempts to illustrate the cross, or use illustrations but make sure we point out what they illustrate and what they mask. But I wonder if we wouldn't be better using the Old Testament for illustration. There are lots of events, Gen 22 - Abraham and Isaac up the mountain, Ex12 - The passover, to name but two, which we rightly say point to the loving and willing sacrificial death of Jesus in our place at calvary, but we often fail to use those pointers as illustrators of what is happening at the cross.

It is helpful to remember to be careful with illustrations we craft, but maybe it would be better to use the ones God has crafted for us and left us in his word?

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