The cross of Jesus stands as a paradoxical symbol. On Calvary we encounter tragedy and triumph, humiliation and exaltation. In history the cross represents persecution and piety, aggression and meekness. Why the paradox? Reverend Moon offers the following explanation.
When Jesus was lifted up, the compelling reason to become a Christian was established: Jesus died for me. It is reasonable to conclude that Jesus’ only purpose was accomplished at the cross. But it is not the complete picture. Christ was of two minds about the path of the cross. In Gethsemane, he prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42) What caused that ambivalence? It was not fear. It was love-induced sorrow at having to close the door on a greater good intended by God.
Early in his ministry, in a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah and was asked to read. Luke records, “Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’” Jesus passed by chapter 53, with its prophecy of “rejection, sorrows and suffering.” He read instead of a Christ triumphant, receiving the “crown of glory.” (Is 61, 62:3) Jesus launched his ministry by declaring “now is the time… the Kingdom is at hand.” Jesus must have repeated over and over about the “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God,” for the terms appear 97 times in the New Testament, and neither phrase is found in the Old Testament.
Jesus not to receive the crown but instead was led to “suffer many things.” (Matthew 16:21) Nailed to the cross, Jesus became our personal savior, but the advent of the Kingdom was postponed.
It is Jesus’ self-giving, love, that taste of God’s Kingdom, that saves. That love is what we honor and seek to emulate. The first Christians did not honor the cross. It was an instrument of torture, not a symbol of faith. From the time of Emperor Constantine’s vision, too many armies bent on forced conversion rallied around the cross. To Muslims, Jews, and many others, the cross signifies intolerance. The scriptures give no instruction to hang a cross anywhere. But there is a deeper reason Reverend Moon counsels clergy to put it aside. It is to comfort the heart of God and Jesus and to repent truly for having rejected him.
Jesus clearly taught how to remember him and live in him. As for the cross, he told us to bear it, not worship it. In extending our focus beyond the symbol, we discover humankind’s deeper relationship with the living Christ. Becoming one in love is the authentic symbol of Christ (Jn 17:20-21). This is how Reverend Moon inspired Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy, in a public ceremony held in Jerusalem in December, 2003, to crown Jesus king of peace, and to honor Moses and Muhammad. The interfaith group enlarged as they declared their oneness on America’s Capitol Hill, and extended their embrace to offer crowns of peace to the True Parents, Reverend and Mrs. Moon. The clergy honored God’s original purpose in sending the Messiah, with their tearful and joyful unity serving as a living testimony.