I often wonder why we now associate Easter with eggs and rabbits in church as much as outside of church. I think it is because to accept the reality of what happened to Jesus on the cross is too horrific to bear. It is also easy to gloss over it because the gospel writers didn’t do a description of it, but that was because they didn’t need to go into descriptions of what it was like because their readership knew. Crucifixion was not something that only happened on Good Friday to Jesus and the two unnamed robbers either side of him. It was something that the readership of all the gospels would have seen on a regular basis. It was the Roman’s way of punishing and letting the local populace know what would happen to them if they disobeyed the might of the “Pax Romanus”. For those who fell foul of Roman it was a brutal. Again something that is often not explored.
But Jesus knew the horror of what he was walking towards. He talks of “carrying your cross” which again has become a nice sanitised sermon about setting out on a journey to “give up self”. I think when Jesus said about carrying your cross, him and his disciples had just walked past a row of dying people hung on crosses. Jesus was saying “are you willing to die a humiliating death for what is right and true?” It is the same as turning the other cheek. To carry one’s own cross does not mean that we defend ourselves, or even willing submit to giving up “ego” but that we let someone else have their way even if it is the wrong way to realise the greater good, or as Aslan said in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” so we can “release the deeper magic.”
We need to remember that Jesus wasn’t all nicely wrapped up in loin cloth hanging serenely from the cross for all to see. He was beaten, crushed, naked and possibly with an erection because apparently when a man is in horrendous pain or when the body is wrenched as it would be on the cross the penis goes erect, which is a place of total humiliation. This is why the Romans did this. Not only did it kill slowly but was humiliating. It was not a nice death and Jesus opted in for this kind of death.
My husband shared a story – and I can’t find a link for it – about a church that makes a Jesus on the cross out of bread. From what I can remember of it they did a naked Jesus and when someone played the soldier who speared Jesus side he accidentally knocked off the bread penis. But that got me thinking about how high Jesus would have been from the ground for a grown man to be able to push is spear into Jesus’ side. I am thinking these crucified people would probably have been hanging just off the ground with their feet almost touching. I wonder if it is worse to be almost touching the ground rather than up high like Jesus is portrayed in many church renditions. I don’t think he was high up and able to see across everyone. Possibly when he spoke to his mother and to John he was only head and shoulders above them.
I’ve also wondered the bits in the Bible during the crucifixion where it says people didn’t understand what he said. Ok some of it was because he was slowly losing the power to breath as his lungs were stretched – another thing that we don’t talk about it in church. But also the site of the crucifixion was really busy with people. There would be those who were quietly weeping aas they watched their family members die hoping ot to be open grief probably did not happen because of fear of reprisals from the Romans. But there would also be the crowd who were there to jeer and catcall to make themselves look good in front of the Roman authorities. They would be wanting to heard saying how pleased they were that these people were being crucified. They were fitting in and covering their backs, denying association with those hanging there. Remember that when Jesus was crucified it was not a sombre religious occasion but something people were fearful of, were glad it was happening to someone else. It was humiliating! Horrendous!
Yes church talks of Jesus rejected and alone but do we really know how rejected and alone. And also how quickly we would probably be to fit in with the crowd rather than stand out say he was our friend and maybe be in the next lot to be crucified?
Crucifixion was crap, horrendous, brutal. I often wonder if that was why the early established church shortened the time from crucifixion to resurrection? So one doesn’t have to dwell on it for too long. Jesus says he’ll be in the belly of the earth three days [about 72 hours] and yet the church shortened it to two nights, about 36-40 hours in total. Half the time. Are we all too willing to brush over the horrors not just of what Jesus went through but of the horrors that goes on in our world now?
Perhaps today should be called “Horrendous Friday” not Good Friday. Though of course it is good Friday because we know what happens next so again maybe that’s why we gloss over the bad bits?