The Cross Isn’t Pretty

There’s a little icon on my desktop that represents a trash can.  A real trash can would be showing its age by now, but my icon always looks exactly the same.  It never gets filthy, never dents, never smells, and the lid always closes no matter how much “trash” is inside.  The icon represents a trash can, but a real trash can isn’t pretty.  So it is with the cross.

We wear crosses of gold and silver about the neck, carve them into our church pews, paint them in our artwork and place them above our church buildings.  As an icon, the cross represents Christianity.  But our images have no splinters, rusty nails, nor do they drip with the blood of the slain.  The image of the cross is meant to remind us that the broken body of Christ was hung on the tree.  Our communion wafers are perfect little squares, and the wine/juice tastes sweet, but the body of the Lord was broken and his blood poured out.  Flesh was ripped away by the whip.  Blood and sweat mingled and dripped to the ground.  The air was ripe with the smell of blood and the stench of death.  The cross was an instrument of torture and execution.

I’m not suggesting we do away with the symbols.  It is our nature to forget, and we must be reminded of what God has done.  Rainbows actually are beautiful, but they remind us of mercy in the face of judgment.  Baptism represents death of the old man and rebirth of the new.  Passover reminded the Jews of what God had done for them, just as communion does for us today.  Our hope is in the resurrection, made possible by the crucifixion.  We must remember what God has done.  But remember as well… it wasn’t pretty.

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Jesus Junk

I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since I posted Cross of Christ, a light-hearted little rant about the image at left.  That’s an mp3 player in the shape of a cross.  I asked if this was just another piece of Jesus Junk, a commercialized piece of whatever that nobody actually needs but retailers imagine Christians will buy.  I buy Christian CD’s and t-shirts, and there are some other items that are pretty legit.  I shop Christian bookstores mostly for books but have bought “other” things there as well.  But some people buy Christianized versions of products they already own.  Or ridiculous things that they would never have bought if it wasn’t shaped like a cross, or wrapped in tiny scriptures, or embossed with an image of Jesus.

The Jesus Christ Show has an extensive collection of Jesus Junk.  I’m sorry if 1) that expression offends you, and 2) you bought/own any of the items pictured.  I mean no disrespect to Jesus using that term, and imagine he has facepalmed himself a time a two over some of the things people market Christians just to make a buck.  Browse the pics, have a laugh, and remember: none of us conform to his image perfectly.  I fail every single day and he loves me in spite of myself.

Thoughts on Holy Week: Jesus’ Prayer from the Cross

jesus_crossIn his first sermon (Mark 1) Jesus offers a simple message: “Repent and believe the gospel.”  As he hangs on the cross some 3 years later, what is Jesus doing?  We have only a handful of words spoken by Jesus during the crucifixion, but there are some powerful lessons to be shared in them.

As he hangs on the cross, he was in between two thieves.  One of them mocked Jesus, but the other asked to be remembered by him.  Jesus replied that he would be with him in paradise.  Even while dying on the cross, Jesus won a convert!

But even more amazing: Jesus said the prayer of intercession for the very people crucifying him that day. Not just of the Roman soldiers, but for those really responsible, including the Jewish people, the priests and the Sanhedrin.  “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He prayed for the very people taking his life.  Taking the form of a servant is one thing.  Washing feet is another.  Praying for those that despitefully use you is another entirely.  But none of those compare to asking forgiveness for the very people that are nailing you to a cross, where you will slowly bleed and die.

“He Cannot Save Himself”

He Cannot Save Himself

Many questions were asked of him,
though no answer was heard.
Pilate pressed him to respond,
but Jesus spoke not a word.

As prophesied by Isaiah,
like a lamb he was silent.
Which angered the crowd even more,
and they began to riot.

Governor Pilate faced the Jews,
and in order to honor custom,
told them that at their choosing,
he would release one prisoner among them.

He knew that Jesus was delivered
out of envy, malice and vice.
But the crowd choose Barabbas,
shouting “Crucify Jesus Christ.”

Pilate washed his hands before them,
saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”
The crowd said “Let his blood be upon us,
and upon our sons.”

They stripped off his own garments,
placed on him a robe and crown.
And then pretended to worship,
before him kneeling down.

They placed on his head
a crown made of thorns.
Then they spat, hit and slapped him,
and mocked him to scorn.

They compelled the man Simon
to carry his cross.
And divided his garments,
by casting lots.

They made for him a sign,
placed over his head.
“This is Jesus, King of the
Jews” the words read.

Thieves were crucified with him,
on his left and his right.
One was loud and boastful,
the other more humble, contrite.

“We are guilty of our crimes,
and deserve to die this way.”
And when Jesus saw his faith,
promised paradise that day.

“He cannot save himself” they mocked,
as his blood fell to the ground.
But they were crucifying an innocent,
in whom no guilt was found.

This was God’s plan of salvation,
established before there was time.
Each event had been prophesied,
and now fell perfectly in line.

The trial, the false witness,
his hanging on a tree;
It was all prophesied clearly
in Isaiah fifty-three.

So the words of their mocking
are actually true, you see.
He could not save himself, for
on the cross… he saved me.