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Pause for Thought: Interpreting the Cross and the Resurrection

What do they mean?

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To explore our understanding of Christian beliefs about the crucifixion and Jesus’ resurrection.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the means to display the ten descriptions of the cross in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2.
  • Note: this assembly is not specific to Easter; it can be used at any time of the year.


  1. Nearly 2,000 years ago, a historical event took place. A man called Jesus was crucified near the city of Jerusalem in Roman-occupied Palestine. There are claims that this same man then came back to life three days later, although it is difficult to verify this.

    What is true is that, in the centuries that have followed, millions of people have found the events of this time to be life-changing. The events of one weekend have been described as a turning point in history, a cataclysmic moment. What do they mean? People have interpreted the meaning of these events in many different ways.

  2. Some interpretations are as follows.

    - 1. On the cross, Jesus provided a bridge to God for humanity.
    - 2. Jesus’ death was a human sacrifice to remove sin.
    - 3. The resurrection was the defeat of death, so people need no longer fear it.
    - 4. Jesus became a mediator between us and God the judge (like in a law court).
    - 5. People could now be adopted into God’s family.
    - 6. A battle was won over evil so that we could be washed clean of its dirt.
    - 7. The resurrection was like light breaking through the darkness into our world.
    - 8. The resurrection was like a slave being released because his or her freedom had been purchased.
    - 9. A deserved punishment was taken on our behalf by Jesus.
    - 10. The resurrection enabled us to become like prisoners who have been set free.

  3. Whatever happened during that weekend so long ago, it appears that no single interpretation has been sufficient to describe it. This may be because each of us is different in our approach to life. Some feel guilt more than others. Some are desperate for freedom from confines. The darkness of depression is a reality for one person, whereas someone else may simply want to become part of a family or a community, to belong.

    I wonder which of the images we most identify with.

Time for reflection

Of course, we could say that this is all a matter of conjecture, of make-believe, that nothing took place other than a well-deserved (or possibly unjust) execution. That may be so, but it is important to take time out from our active days to consider important matters like these. It gives us time to think and assess what is important, what really matters.

We can consider questions such as:

- how do we feel about our past?
- how is the day going?
- what about the future?
- how might the experiences and ideas of others help us to develop as human beings?

So, let’s take a minute to consider those ten interpretations of the cross and the resurrection, things that are central to the Christian faith.

Let’s read the interpretations again and choose three that feel especially significant to us.

Display the ten interpretations from the ‘Assembly’, Step 2. Encourage a minute’s silence to allow time for thought.


‘On the turning away’ by Pink Floyd, available at: (5.41 minutes long)

Extension activities

Encourage discussion and research about the historical reality of the crucifixion and resurrection.

Publication date: June 2021   (Vol.23 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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