Hey, Father! Why does it seem we place more emphasis on Jesus’ Crucifixion than on his Resurrection?
Why does it seem we place more emphasis on Jesus’ Crucifixion than on his Resurrection? We could all be put to a torturous death on a cross, but we can’t be raised like Jesus was. If there was no Resurrection, there is no point in the Crucifixion other then it was done to an innocent man.
– Nancy in Barry
When St. Paul went to preach at the Areopagus in Athens, he went to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As he proclaimed the bodily Resurrection of the Lord to the philosophically minded Athenians, they scoffed at him and rejected his message out of hand. The Greeks, who looked upon the body as nothing more than a prison from which the soul sought to escape, thought the notion of the reunification of the body and the soul preposterous. From that day on, St. Paul resolved to “preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23). He went so far as to say, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). We place more emphasis on the Crucifixion because St. Paul does.
The Church has always held the cross of Christ to be the great sign of his victory – a trophy, of sorts – over sin and death. Just as the Church depicts the martyrs with the signs of their victory (St. Paul, for example, was beheaded by the sword and often is shown carrying a sword because it was the instrument of his death), the Church depicts the Lord on the instrument of his death, an instrument which brought us our salvation and victory over sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “the Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross” (638). This is why St. Paul frequently spoke of Jesus as the one who “died and was raised” (II Corinthians 5:15). The death of Jesus on the cross cannot be separated from His Resurrection from the dead, and vice versa; to preach one is to preach the other.
We emphasize the Crucifixion of Jesus in the certain hope that “if, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him… Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:8-11). The effective means of preaching this central truth of the Christian faith and life is to follow the example of Saint Paul, to preach Christ Crucified.
Fr. Daren Zehnle is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.