The Cross is the Epicenter of Reality – Brad Jersak
“The Cross of Jesus Christ is the Epicenter of Reality” – Bradley Jersak
I occasionally write that the Cross of Jesus Christ is the epicenter of reality—attempting to recall the precision and poetry of early Christian theologians who loved to use the phrase axis mundi (axis of the universe). I’d like to share briefly what that means to me.
To begin, when I use the word “Cross,” I am following St. Paul’s language in Galatians 6:14, when he says, “I glory in nothing but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Wait? What about the resurrection? Why prioritize the crucifixion over and to the exclusion of the resurrection when we know the risen Christ was so pivotal to Paul’s teaching (especially in 1 Corinthians 15)?
And that is where we sometimes make our first misstep. For Paul, the Cross of Jesus Christ is not simply the Good Friday crucifixion. The Cross is the New Testament symbol of what God in Christ accomplished for the world through his death and resurrection (the whole Paschal Mystery), including (1) his definitive revelation of God’s love and grace and (2) his decisive act of victory over Satan, sin, and death. The Cross then stands as an icon of Jesus Christ himself. HE is the epicenter of Reality, the Incarnate image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s likeness, and all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. To see him is to see the Father, and to see who he is and what he does in his death and resurrection is to see the heart of the Father in clearest focus and as the apex of divine self-revelation.
Next, when I say epicenter, I mean ultimately important, absolutely central, the zenith, the apex, the axis of the universe. The Cross is ultimately important for us humans, for our redemption, etc. But for all reality? Yes!
I use the word reality with great care. What does reality include? When I use the term, I am including ALL reality—both Creator and creation, visible and invisible, eternity and time. In the Father-heart of God, how are these united? Only in Jesus Christ. God the Father, by the Spirit, established Christ alone as the union of Creator and created, visible and invisible, eternal and temporal—and this union in Christ both (1) transfigures the created cosmos and (2) gives shape to the eternal and invisible God in visible and temporal form. ALL of this together constitutes reality, and the Father has, in love, chosen and sent his only begotten Son by the Spirit to be the Epicenter… not merely straddling each realm with one leg, but uniting them in himself.
And this is always true (where is = present tense, eternal). And that truth—that reality has an epicenter where eternity and time intersect—is where the Lamb slain from eternity (“the foundations of the cosmos” – Revelation 13:8) and the Lamb slain in space-time history on Golgotha are indivisibly one and the same. It is this Lamb slain who stands “at the center of the throne” (Revelation 5:6). In Christ, the Cross of Christ is both the eternal throne and the wooden crucifix at once because, for God, it is all NOW. This is why in the “sacred time” of ancient hymnology, we never say “Christ was born,” Christ died” or “Christ rose.” It is always Christ is born, Christ is crucified, Christ is risen—because it is always a present-tense reality.
This is where our temporal perspectives are problematic. Is there such a thing as before the fall? Or before Christ? Or before the Cross? Our past-tense grammar describes a solely human perspective and its time-bound limitations. But there is no ‘before’ to the ‘everywhen, all-present’ Father, or his Son, Jesus Christ, described in Isaiah 9:6 as the “father of eternity” (Isaiah 9:6) and through whom God “created the ages”(Hebrews 1:2). We know this because Jesus Christ, almighty Lord (Revelation 1:8) of Reality (eternity and time), can say in John 5:58, “Before Abraham was [our earthly perspective], I AM” [God’s eternal perspective].
Let’s bundle this up now. The Cross (eternal and temporal) then is the definitive revelation and decisive act of the Father’s heart as self-giving love. We don’t have an abstract love ‘before’ creation or ‘before’ the Cross. Rather, the Father’s heart IS always (not from before but from above, eternally) revealed, expressed, and enacted in the cosmos where the portal between the two registers of reality is Christ himself (and specifically,God-in-Christ). The axis or epicenter looks like a Cross because the Cross is the revelation of (not the cause of) God’s love.