A cemetery parallels the hill on which this house was built – separated by what at first appears to be a forest but is instead a thin band of wild hickories, spiked grasses, and deceptive blooms – mustard yellow, cornflower blue, and clinging purple morning glories that wilt nightly.
To enter is not far.
From the entrance below is the fixed view of a bricked and glassed, untroubled house of stillness, chandelier lit inside, regally beckoning us all. Left of the perpetually broadening expanse of ancestral proof are the three, expected wooden beams aesthetically posted and crossed.
While walking once more the path paved for the living, for the first time in all those others spent contemplating the sting of death, came this thought – since Christ and only one of two other men who hung on the infamous trees of ancient history were resurrected to eternal life, why do we insist on symbolizing three deaths instead of two? Especially at the cemetery where my sympathies rest on every family’s upright stone or lone individual’s carved name will I find it difficult to imagine the eternal damnation met by many here .
I Corinthians 15:42-44 says, “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” So something happened to those whose bodies were laid in these graves, something after they were living, breathing, beings that was unavoidable, maybe unexpected, definitely supernaturally appointed. Only I don’t want to believe that like the extra cross carrying one man away from life in paradise, many of these souls below my feet waited too long and time cheated them of one last chance to die to self in the natural.
The truth which cannot be changed is that Christ took one, not both criminals to Paradise that day of His resurrection. In Proverbs 11:18-19, God reminds us that “The wicked man does deceptive work, but he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward. As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.” And again in Proverbs 12:28, the emphasis is unmistaken, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”
What would happen if we were to begin using two, not three crosses to represent the resurrected Christ? Would anyone think to ask what happened to the third dying man? Just one cross – we see the resurrected Christ; two crosses – resurrected life and salvation. It would seem the focus would be on Christ’s redemptive work. Yet, dug and cemented deeply in this world in miniature of pasts and futures are three crosses – resurrection and redemption but also tragic loss of life and soul separated from all that is love and beauty.
If I think rightly, I will remember that to enter that world may be soon. Yes, I will be there, too. If only I had to think about my own redemptive story, how complacent I might become. So I guess that third cross is to remind me that I have a duty to warn and woo every soon-to-be-changed body among the living. A reminder to say today, believe and be changed from the natural to the spiritual.