My church has a large, freestanding wooden cross up near the altar area. Hanging at the joining of the two beams is a crown of thorns, and just under that is a silk butterfly.
I was looking at this today, and started thinking.
As a Catholic, I had many, many crucifixes, and I loved them. I loved what they represented - Christ's sacrifice for all of mankind. I would often pray in front of the crucifix and meditate on that Great Sacrifice for long stretches of time. I understood (and still do understand) what the crucifix really was - not a remembrance of a tortuous death, but a remembrance of the ultimate love: He laid down His life for His friends.
On the other hand, the plain cross always struck me as not very inspiring at all. It seemed to be waiting for a victim. There's nothing THERE, it didn't speak to my heart. Until today.
Looking at that cross, crown, and butterfly, I was suddenly struck with the realization that that empty cross has very powerful meaning. And it took the crown of thorns and the butterfly to bring it home to me.
The crown of thorns was placed on Jesus' head just before He was hung on the cross to die, in Pilate's courtyard, where He had just been scourged and humiliated. It wasn't put on His head at Golgotha. It was before He got there.
The butterfly, because of its cocoon/metamorphosis cycle, is a symbol of the resurrection.
That cross isn't empty because it's waiting for somebody to kill.
It's empty because Christ is not longer on it. Christ is risen.
These thoughts struck me very powerfully today, and now I have a new understanding of something I was never quite clear on.