Grace to you
Today we survey the Cross of Christ. To survey its wonder, as the hymn writer implores, we must first survey its terror. Yes, before the Cross is wondrous it is torturous and to deny the terror is to dilute the wonder.
The cross was more than a Roman tool of torture. It was a sign of intimidation – put up for all to see as a reminder to all who dared to think of rebelling against the authority of Rome, to think again.
Rome – like almost every oppressive nation – thought that they were the very incarnation of God on earth – and treated any threat to their power as not only treason but an affront to the Divine or at least what they believed to be “their God-given right”. Throughout the ages oppressive regimes have used religion to endorse their oppression while convincing their followers that evil is holiness and holiness is evil. We’ve seen this in our past where those in power convinced their followers that racism was a virtue and not a sin. When good and evil are literally swopped around terror-ble things are done by people who believe they are not only doing good but that they are actually pleasing God.
As T.S. Eliot reminds us: “Most of the evil in the world is done by people with good intensions.” This is certainly what the Calvary Cross exposes, for it was religious people who called for Jesus’ crucifixion. Ironically religious people turned out to be the greatest threat to Jesus. They believed nailing Jesus was holy and pleasing to God. In “defending” God they were in fact denying God. The Calvary Cross teaches us that throughout history the so-called “defenders” of God almost always do so by destroying human beings.
One would hope that the followers of Jesus would never do this, but alas history is littered with examples to the contrary. The reason one would expect Jesus-followers not to fall for this is, because at the heart of Christ-like faith, is the belief that God has taken on human form – flesh of our flesh – and therefore to diminish or destroy human life is at one and the same time diminishing and denying God. As the author to Colossians writes: “Christ is all and in all.” [Colossians 3:11]. Or remember the heavenly words of question to Saul on the road to Damascus: “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” See, God takes human persecution personally!
In short – the torturous Cross of Calvary teaches us that when we kill human beings we kill God. This begs our wonder…