Sunday, April 14, 2013
This image is from Paul Fryer's "Pieta." It is a startlingly disturbing image of Jesus. I can surmise that some people would be disgusted by the image and want to turn away. Can you imagine now how shocking such an image would be to the disciples and listeners of Jesus when he said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his electric chair and follow Me."
Jesus' death was a gruesome experience meant to intimidate the local population. It was a symbol of a tyrant against his oppressed people. Crosses were placed outside of towns on the main thoroughfares as a warning to obey the tyrant or face the consequences. In this context, Jesus said to His listeners that they needed to embrace this. Can you wonder why this would turn people off?
Following Christ is one of extreme devotion. Our great hymns tend to take on a new light. What if we sang instead, "So I'll cherish the old rusty chair"? "Jesus keep me near the chair."
It took the Early Church a long time to adopt the cross as a symbol for Christianity. Beforehand, they would use the symbol of the fish. The word "fish" in Greek, "ichthus," was an acronym in Greek for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior." It also had the fortune of looking like the lower case Greek letter "Alpha." I had a professor in college who speculated that if a Christian met another person he/she believed were a Christian, the first person would inscribe the letter "alpha" in the dirt and the other Christian would inscribe the Greek letter "omega." This came from Jesus' statement in the Book of Revelation that He is the "Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and End." It wasn't until the third century that the cross finally because a symbol that Christians could say they identified with.
I hope that those of us who are Christians can appreciate what the cross truly symbolizes.