The great difference between the historical fact of Easter and all others in the long record of events upon earth is that I feel that I was in the deepest sense a participator in it. I do not feel this way regarding any other fact in history, striking and moving as many of them are.
At the lovely Cathedral of Canterbury I was taken into those cool, shadowed cloisters and shown the place where the blood of a famous cleric ran down upon the gray stones. “This is the spot,” my guide said to me, “where Thomas Becket, the proud and powerful prelate, was at prayer when five of the king’s knights came upon him with drawn swords.” Becket was kneeling before the altar when they struck him, and his blood ran down upon the sacred stones. The story touches my heart. Its drama, struggle and tragedy come vividly before me. But I do not feel that it has anything to do with me. I come away from Canterbury grateful for a history lesson. But that is all.
I go to the place, dear to many, where Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded. I ponder over her restless life with its continual storms blowing upon her until she had to die with the axe upon her slender neck. But I do not feel that her life and death have anything to do with me. I say, “Ah, yes! I remember the story.” And to me it is only a story.
But I go home from a meeting, late in the evening, and I feel I would like to hear a little music. So I put on my player a record by the International Staff Band, and I hear men’s voices singing the old spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” And I feel deeply and inescapably that the question is for me. I reply, “Yes! I was there! Indeed, I was there!”
This matter has to do with me as no other fact in history. Why do I feel like this? It is not because of an emotional reaction to an oft-told story. This matter goes deeper than that. I am brought to Calvary by my sin, by my need of forgiveness, by my identity with the human race in its need of a Savior.
We must all come near to the cross, with our guilt, our hopes and fears. Here we will find the answer to our deepest needs. It must be a personal approach that we make to Calvary. Until we can say “I was there!” we cannot know the true meaning of the central fact in all history.
Albert Orsborn, The War Cry