Historically, Christians were not afraid of the cross; rather they loved the cross. In fact, Paul penned, “if we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (2 Cor. 1:6, NIV). The cross taught that one can be inflicted with suffering, yet have tremendous faith and rejoice because of the complete dependency on God that it has facilitated. It was not a sign of feeble confidence. Actually, it required faith to face suffering with dignity. Yet, the cross recognized that miraculous healings occurred from Christ’s sufferings. The cross reminded us that a true miracle of healing was a conversion of the heart.
The cross was central to all Christian teaching including healing. Without an understanding of its implications in the life of a believer, one cannot truly “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me [Christ]” (Luke 9:23, NIV). John Stott wrote, “the Cross is the pivot as well as the centre of New Testament thought. It is the exclusive mark of the Christian faith, the symbol of Christianity and its cynosure.” God’s wisdom focuses on the cross and therefore, all teaching about healing must come in subjection to the cross and its meaning for Christian living. Ultimately, God demonstrates his transformational power for healing in the cross as God’s touch still has its ancient power.
In my congregation I pastor, Trinity United Christian Church, near Pittsburgh PA, Holy Communion is the highpoint of the cross in worship. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remains one of the few Protestant denominations that celebrate communion every week. Our Episcopal and Catholic friends call it the Eucharist which comes from a Greek word that means thanksgiving; thus, the Great Thanksgiving. Communion is a vertical relationship with the congregation, a love toward the brothers and sisters. Yet, it is a horizontal reality with God. Place both together and you have the cross.
I believe the Holy Communion has through faith, great healing power for the soul and body. The book of 1 Corinthians 11 states that some of the Corinthians were accepting the cup and bread unworthily. They ate and drank, missing its meaning. Their sicknesses were not healed and some people died before their time. They were not grasping the meaning of his body and their relationship with one another. They were separated from the healing the Lord offered in the Holy Communion.
We receive the Holy Communion, believing the Lord’s presence to heal. We love to take it often for many reasons, not the least of which it is a sacrament, a point of contact, to release our faith to God and forgive the brethren. Communion is the Lord’ table and his work on the cross sets the table. He welcomes all who desire to know him deeply and share in his life to heal. It is the cross and the blood of Christ cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:9). That notion is the meaning and reality of the words this is my body and blood, in relation to the power of the cross.