Yesterday we remembered Christ’s crucifixion. Yesterday we mourned his wounds, wept for his spent blood, gasped at his pain.
Crucifixion was s…l…o…w…
Traitors of the Roman Empire were sentenced to crucifixion. It was used as a way to control the natives, such as the Jews in first century Palestine (and it’s clear just from the gospels how despised these Roman invaders were). Bit like the modern ‘shock and awe’ in its intent. Also, to die ‘hung from the tree’ was, in contemporary Jewish thought, a form of curse. A curse was reserved for the scum of the earth, the lowest of the low. Filth. Detritus.
This is why Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians
‘…but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.’
1 Corinthians 1:23
You can read more about this in Not Ashamed of the Gospel: New Testament Interpretations of the Death of Christ by M. Hooker.
Crucifixion was designed to be torture, in every possible way, leading to a lingering death. It was created to be as horrible as it could be and deliberately so. It was intended, by the ubiquitously inventive Romans, to set an example to others, and so control a restless population. Over several days, Jesus was stripped of everything until, naked and already severely beaten, he was nailed to the cross.
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” He cried out at last in his mother tongue, Aramaic. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Perhaps the most heart-striking words in all the bible; separation from God.
The painting below is a 15th century depiction of where the gluttony of violence began:
Christ Mocked (the Crowning with Thorns), Hieronymus Bosch
This painting can be viewed in the National Gallery in London (to read more about this amazing picture, click here. It will open in a new tab). I first saw it on my honeymoon. My husband had taken me to see it. The painting sits in an underground, darkened room, but draws your attention as soon as you see it. You walk closer. It draws you in. Christ looks out at you from the picture as if to say,
“And what about you?”
And what about you? Part of modern folklore, for want of a better word, is that if you or I had been there, we too would have participated in Christ’s death, or abandoned him to his fate. This folklore says that all Jesus’ friends left him. All who had ever loved him abandoned him in that moment.
But they didn’t. The disciples scattered, but the women were there. And on that beautiful, sorrowful, morning of the third day, the women were still there, this time to bring spices, to perform their last act of love in preparing the body.
Women, who were considered less-than, women who were the property of their male relatives, women who could not own land, who had no control over their destiny, etc., etc., these were the last at the cross and the first at the resurrection.
‘…for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.
And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are,
So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.’
1 Corinthians 27-29 Amplified version
God chose me too, lowly and shamed, rejected and neglected. Treated with contempt. I should be forever on my knees in thanks. If God can choose me, and use me, He can use you. Don’t give up hope.