Happy Easter?

Happy Easter?

 

 

The Crucified Christ by Guido Rocha, a Brazilian sculptor is shocking, and for good reason. Anyone who thinks crucifixion is a walk in the park is deluded! Yet, it seems that society today does not have the stomach for the reality of what happened to Christ.  Are we too used to thinking of the cross as a trinket?

 

Take the new film ‘Mary’ for instance. I heard a film critic describe it as “bland” saying that the director has gone for the most innocuous and inoffensive lines Jesus could speak. By doing so, the critic added, he had no idea who this film was aimed at. “Even believers will find it dull”.

 

In Jesus’ day, not many Jews liked the death penalty, even though the Old Testament approved it. They preferred to say that God would carry out his own execution – if someone deserved death, they would die early. There were still some zealots who wanted death penalties and occasionally a mob killed a sinner, like the adulteress Jesus had to rescue, but generally they were happy to let God look after the death penalty.

 

Crucifixion was normally reserved for slaves, terrorists and the worst kind of criminals. Pilate found no evidence to support the religious leaders claim that Jesus was a criminal. His only crime it seems was that he upset them. So why go to so much trouble? They could have got a mob to do their dirty work. Instead they went for an ‘official’ route. Why?

 

Simply put, Jesus was a dangerous heretic and the only way to stop him and his followers was to have him killed in this way. Then his supporters, of which there were many, couldn’t respect his memory and they would melt away and forget him.

 

It was a cruel, painful slow suffocation that could take days. The only way to breathe was to push yourself up on the nails which caused even more pain. Rocha’s shocking sculpture of Christ has it exactly right in my opinion, it was hell. Then there is the shame of it. A criminal’s death, stripped naked for maximum humiliation and what crucifixion does to bodily fluids we’ll not even mention in polite society! Suffice to say it was graphic, messy and degrading. It was the most shameful death ever invented.

 

Christ crucified is God’s power and wisdom

Can it really be true that this was all part of God’s plan? God came into our world as a human baby. Immanuel, God with us. He lived in the dirt and grime of life. In the village where he grew up they would know he was illegitimate. So, when he preached in his home town they threw him out. The educated elite thought him reckless and his miracles fake. When he was crucified, they wanted everyone to know that God had cursed him. In some ancient graffiti, Jesus is depicted as a crucified ass being worshipped. The idea of God himself suffering in this way seems like madness. Who could worship a God like that, so weak and defeated?

It wasn’t until Constantine saw the cross in heaven just before victory, that Christians started using the cross as a symbol of triumph. Paul said long before that the Cross was where Jesus had his victory and John said the Cross showed Jesus at his most glorious but for normal Christians the cross was just too shameful as a symbol. Yet the point is that the cross is the very symbol of new life. God is not dead, because on the cross, though the sacrifice of Christ, the sin of a world that put him to death is redressed and through the resurrection we are made whole, healed, forgiven; saved! This for me, is what it means to say ‘Happy Easter’.

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

With every blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar