The essence of No Cross, No Crown was written by a 22-year-old William Penn while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1668. For the crime of blasphemy, which we may translate as being at odds with the established church of the time.
Penn was a Quaker, but one who would likely be drummed out of Meeting were he to appear today. Penn, as were most of the early Friends, were hard-line, Gospel-believing Christians. Puritans were their closest theological allies: Jesus Christ, God incarnate, God crucified, God risen. Simplicity; faithful to Scripture’s most important message: God is with us, to the end of days (Matthew 28:20).
The message of Penn’s masterwork is one we must be especially mindful of this day, Good Friday: we must always be mindful that we carry the cross of Christ with us at all times. That Christ, God incarnate, suffered, was imprisoned, and died this very two millenia ago. Died so that we might live.
As a Friend, Penn believed that each of us shared the light that is Christ within us. Each of us, no matter how vile our humanity had made us. I, also, believe that even the most foul human has that of Christ within. But that we, for the most part, do not allow that light to shine. Which is testimony to the likelihood that most will not be saved.
Today, in the Christian calendar, is the one day most Christians pay some attention to the cross. Reports from the Via Dolorosa, showing thousands of pilgrims walking what might have been walked by Jesus on his way to Golgotha, show that there are still some that take the Stations of the Cross quite seriously. For the most part, however, American Christians, and certainly most Protestants, tend to, as the song says, “look on the sunny side of life.”
One thing that’s always bothered me is that we seem just chock full of joyous, Easter-morn Christians. Everything is goodness and sweetness, wearing our best clothes, with happy, shiny folk on their Easter egg hunts, preparing baskets of sweets for the kiddies. But not telling much about the blood spilled to get them to Easter.
On this side, on the human side of the cross, we must take it up and suffer with our Lord. Not just this one day a year, Good Friday. No, every day, so that we may better appreciate the joy and the glory that is Easter morn. That’s the true glory of the cross — suffering, but with a purpose. There’s no shame in suffering, and we must never lose sight of that purpose: hope that we might share in the eternal glory that is the risen Christ.
Which gets us through the suffering.