1 Corinthians 1.18–31
In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.
A piece of graffiti now in the Palatine Hill Museum in Rome may be the earliest picture we have of Jesus on the cross, dating back to sometime shortly after AD 200. It is bitterly sarcastic. Jesus has the head of a donkey; Alexamenos was considered a fool. The graffiti says
It’s clear that Alexamenos was considered a fool. It’s also clear that Jesus was an ass.
The early Christians had a problem. Anyone who was crucified was absolutely cursed by God, the refuse of the Empire, fit only for insult, scorn, and ridicule.
Why worship such a creature?
The cross still causes offence. There are churches that have taken the cross out of the worship space so that people aren’t confronted by it.
It’s a symbol of death.
Recently, in a general article on pedophilia, the image above the headline was a cross. The article wasn’t just about the churches; but the cross stood for pedophile abuse.
Paul said the cross is ‘a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’; it is foolish today.
When Jesus was on the cross, he cried out (Luke 23.34),
Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.
It is utterly foolish for a crucified man to forgive anyone. He is in a position of no earthly power or authority. In fact, anyone who was crucified was considered the absolute and utter dregs of humanity. Who would want such a person’s forgiveness?
But wait just a moment. Note who is being addressed: the Father. And who is speaking: the Son. And who is holding them together: the Holy Spirit.
We have here a glimpse into the life of God the Holy Trinity.
Often, people think of God punishing sin and hurling thunderbolts at evildoers. If God were like that, this would be the place above all others that God would shower us with those thunderbolts.
But the triune God determines to forgive humanity in its sin and rebellion.
Surely, that is an eternal wonder.
And God still holds out that forgiveness to all.
God calls us to continue that work, being people of forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion to everyone we meet.
I think not.
For the Tuesday of Holy Week, 2017