A 15-foot bronze crucifix was stolen from near the entrance point of a Midwestern cemetery. It had stood there for more than 50 years as a reminder of life beyond the grave for Christians. The cross was erected in 1930 by a Catholic bishop at an initial cost of around $10,000. The banks say that $10,000 in 1930 would be in excess of $125,000 in today’s economy.
It seems the thieves were not much concerned about either the initial cost or current value of that masterpiece of craftsmanship. They simply used some rough hacksaw blades to sever it near ground level. Unaware or unconcerned that another four feet of bronze was buried beneath the ground, they left jagged edges that could have been a danger to someone who later walked through the area when the grass was tall. They hauled it off in a U-Haul van.
Police speculate they most likely cut the beautiful symbol into small pieces, perhaps even melted it down and sold it for scrap. They estimate the weight of the bronze from the cross may have fetched less than $1,000 on the scrap metal black market. Those thieves probably had no idea of the treasure they were destroying.
That all too often is the problem for many of the people who hear us preach. As youngsters, we drew crosses—let’s face it, drawing a cross is something any child can do. Almost all of us own a cross or have purchased one as a gift for someone we love. So, if I were to ask a Sunday School class how much a cross costs, the answer likely would be that it has to do with the material used, and it could be anywhere from pennies to millions of dollars.
There is a cross—one hewn not out of a gold or silver, but out of rough Middle Eastern wood—on which no value can be placed because it was the cross of our redemption and of our glorious boasting. “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (
Paul got it! You cannot ever place a value on the cross of Jesus. We can, however, preach it; and we must. Every verse in the Bible points finally to the cross. That was why C.H. Spurgeon told his students, “When you mount the pulpit, read your text, jump over hedges, span the ditches, and run through the fields until you bring your people face-to-face with Christ’s cross.”
“The preaching of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (
Our responsibility before God as preachers is to deliver Christ’s cross in a different envelope for every sermon. If you are a preaching pastor, that can be an interesting challenge and not an easy one to meet.
Winston Churchill understood that. One of the most fascinating bits of history from the past century occurred not long after Churchill led the British people to victory in World War II, when they turned him out of office. Churchill was so discouraged that he went for a while to the South of France to do some painting. Some English evangelicals followed him there and suggested with his clear gift of oratory, perhaps he could be redirected toward preaching. Churchill is said to have replied to them, “Any man who thinks he is capable of addressing essentially the same crowd about essentially the same subject week upon week and holding their attention is a fool! I am not a fool. I merely lost an election.”
He is one of my boyhood heroes; but on that occasion, the great man had more than a shortage of spiritual envelopes. He seemingly did not understand that we do not preach in our own power. The cross of Christ presented in the power of the Holy Spirit is what makes the difference between a talk and a sermon. Anything called a sermon that makes no mention of the cross is misnamed at best. Save your messages that have no cross for the next time a local civic club asks you to speak.
“The preaching of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” Paul said. There is power in preaching. Do not let the preaching critics and pseudo intellectuals of this iPad age tell you that preaching’s day has come and gone. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
How is the cross powerful? Because only the cross covers all our sin and sins. Sin is who we are; sins are what we do because of who we are. “God…loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (
God has no other message and no other means for securing the salvation of sinners and the revitalization of saints than the preaching of the cross.