Submitted by Andy McIlvain.
Jurgen Moltmann states in the first line of The Crucified God, “The cross is not and cannot be loved.”
The scandal of the cross is the mode of death. The manner of Jesus’s death is emblematic of the Christian faith for all time. Crucifixion was humiliating and degrading – that was the point. But not only was it humiliating, it was excruciating. The word “excruciating” comes from two Latin words: ex cruciatus, or out of the cross. Crucifixion was the defining word for pain and humiliation in its day. Jews saw it as an exclusion from God, a curse upon the person. Gentiles of the time saw it as perverse and unrespectable, even to talk about.
Christianity is the only religion to have at its center the death and humiliation of its God.
We don’t understand it or relate to it because we have never seen anything like it in our current reality. Of New Testament times, Fleming Rutledge says: “…everyone knew what it looked like, smelled like, sounded like—the horrific sight of completely naked men in agony, the smell and sight of their bodily functions taking place in full view of all, the sounds of groans and labored breathing going on for hours and in some cases, for days. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that no one cared.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “The Crucifixion is the touchstone of Christian authenticity…It is in the crucifixion that the nature of God is truly revealed. Since the resurrection is God’s mighty trans-historical yes to his historically crucified Son, we can assert that the crucifixion is the most important historical event that ever happened.”
This thing we call sin, which we so tragically minimize in our lives and the world, breaks the design and purpose for which we were created. It always brings indignity and shame to our essence and pain to our existence.
Philosopher Paul Rancour says: “…sin includes the real situation of all human beings before God whether they know it or not.”
The Christian community, ours included, must understand the corporate nature of sin and as individuals we must have a deep personal response. That response is thinking about and acknowledging the part our sin plays in the world. We are in bondage to sin and as a result we are and will continue to be active and conscripted agents of sin. We are not only captive to sin but are complicit in it.
John Piper states: “The early church knew that crucifixion was not just the experience of her Lord, but also a personal summons to sacrificial love. The fading of Christianity from cultural mainstream Western culture in the last 50 years is a dose of early church normalcy. Cultural Christianity has become a curse. It is time for the wheel of history to turn and the Christian church to discover the implications of her founder’s finest hour, namely, his last.”