Part 2 in a series of 4. In part 1 I asked if our focus on blood and violence has caused us to miss something vital in the Easter story. In part 3 I will ask if we have overdone it with the cross and in part 4 I will ask if we even need a cross (technically).
Some one will object to my questions by asserting that “Jesus said to take up our crosses – we are a resurrection people and resurrection only happens after crucifixion.”
There are several problems here.
First, there was more than one cross. There were three in our Easter story only (but not in most of our pictures – like the one to the right). So you can’t say ‘the’ cross. You can say ‘that’ cross. It is vital to get just how many crosses there were. Roman use of crosses was systemic. Jesus’ cross was not an exception in that way.
Second, you are using ‘the cross’ as a shorthand for the whole story. The incarnation, crucifixion, empty grave and pentecost provide a much better snapshot. To sum them up in ‘the cross’ is too limited.
Third, we are people of the resurrection. That does not mean that ‘the cross’ is a good thing. What happened there was unjust. That God redeemed it and brought something good out of it … does not change that it was tragic.
How do we engage the cross still as people who follow Jesus?
It seems like most of the things that we say about the cross are the first half of what should be a longer sentence.
“We preach the cross and Christ crucified” … yes but what do we preach about the cross? That is was unjust? That ‘it is finished’ (the sacrificial system)?
“Jesus died our sins” … yes but also because of our sin? And to what end? To move us away from the scapegoating impulse? To expose and unmask our unjust propensity toward violence?
Here is the problem: if we are not careful, we miss the radical reversal that Jesus’ cross is supposed to provide and we end up simply absorbing it into the system that it was meant to expose. This is a tragedy that ends up normalizing the violence Jesus unmasks and continues the cycle of victimization Jesus was trying to break.
Because of the way talk about the cross in half-sentences and short-hand phrases, we end up siding with the Romans’ use of power and violence and miss the fact that on Good Friday, God was not on the side of the Romans but that God was with Jesus on that cross.
- What do we do with the sacrificial lamb imagery?
We see a trajectory in our canon. God moves Abraham from human sacrifice to animal & grain … later God moves on from that system ( you see this in passages like Psalm 40:6 “sacrifice and offering you did not desire” and Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice”)
People will often quote Hebrews 9:22 “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. The half they leave out is that it actually says “under the law …” Continue reading “How Good Was Friday? part 2”