Good Friday 2020: “God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross.”

Ah Golgotha, accursed Golgotha!
The Lord of glory must shamefully perish here,
The blessing and salvation of the world
Is put on the cross as a curse.
From the creator of the heaven and the earth
The Earth and the air will be taken away
The innocent must here die as guilty,
That touches my soul deeply;
Ah Golgotha, accursed Golgotha!

English Translation by Francis Browne

• • •

Susan Sontag, who suffered for years from the cancer that eventually killed her, wrote this: “It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.” Here in a few words is a fundamental insight with which to view the crucifixion. If Jesus’ demise is construed merely as a death — even as a painful, tortured death — the crucial point will be lost. Crucifixion was specifically designed to be the ultimate insult to personal dignity, the last word in humiliating and dehumanizing treatment. Degradation was the whole point. As Joel Green describes it, “Executed publicly, situated at a major crossroads or on a well-trafficked artery, devoid of clothing, left to be eaten by birds and beasts, victims of crucifixion were subject to optimal, unmitigated, vicious ridicule.” And so, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, the meaning of the cross lies not only in physical suffering, but especially in rejection and shame.

…Crucifixion as a means of execution in the Roman Empire had as its express purpose the elimination of victims from consideration as members of the human race. It cannot be said too strongly: that was its function. It was meant to indicate to all who might be toying with subversive ideas that crucified persons were not of the same species as either the executioners or the spectators and were therefore not only expendable but also deserving of ritualized extermination. Therefore, the mocking and jeering that accompanied crucifixion were not only allowed, they were part of the spectacle and were programmed into it. In a sense, crucifixion was a form of entertainment. Everyone understood that the specific role of the passersby was to exacerbate the dehumanization and degradation of the person who had been thus designated to be a spectacle. Crucifixion was cleverly designed — we might say diabolically designed — to be an almost theatrical enactment of the sadistic and inhumane impulses that lie within human beings. According to the Christian gospel, the Son of God voluntarily and purposefully absorbed all of that, drawing it into himself.

[In] Bonhoeffer’s words, “God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross.”

• Fleming Rutledge. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ
(pp. 78-79; 92-93)

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18 thoughts on “Good Friday 2020: “God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross.”

  1. from MARTIN NIEMOLLER, a Lutheran pastor, this:

    “… the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers. Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians—”should I be my brother’s keeper?”

    Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it’s right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? Only then did the church as such take note.

    Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. . . . “

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  2. . . . Job 10:22 to a land of utter darkness, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.”

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  3. “The crucifixion of Jesus is the preeminent example of God’s love reaching out to us. It is at the same moment the worst and best thing in human history. The Franciscans, led by John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), even claimed that instead of a “necessary sacrifice,” the cross was a freely chosen revelation of Total Love on God’s part.
    In so doing, they reversed the engines of almost all world religion up to that point, which assumed that we had to spill blood to get to a distant and demanding God. On the cross, the Franciscans believed, God was “spilling blood” to reach out to us! This is a sea change in consciousness. The cross, instead of being a transaction, was seen as a dramatic demonstration of God’s outpouring love, meant to utterly shock the heart and turn it back toward trust and love of the Creator”
    .
    R. Rohr

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  4. Jesus of Nazareth was and is the nexus of all things visible and not visible.
    Of all dimensions and of all worlds.
    Of all spaces and the folded spaces between the spaces.
    There was no ‘solar eclipse’ (not possible on Passover).
    The fabric of reality itself began to unravel as he died, and light itself was the first to go…

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  5. “If our preaching does not intersect with the times, we are fleeing the call to take up the cross. We can learn from the example of Dostoevsky, who in The Brothers Karamazov used material that he read in the newspapers to give a human face to the problem of evil.”
    ? Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ

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  6. ” The Crucifixion is also an extended protest against the failure to take seriously evil and sin—
    that is, to take seriously the world in which we live.
    Implicit in her (Fleming Rutledge’s) argument is this thesis: a Christian faith that does not face and come to grips with radical evil does not deserve to be taken seriously.”

    (from a review of Rutledge’s ‘Crucifixion’ by Anthony B. Robinson)
    https://www.christiancentury.org/reviews/2015-09/crux-matter

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  7. Thanks for linking to St Matthew Passion – it has the depth and gravity and beauty needed, that only Bach can call forth.

    I was able to sing the St John Passion in a Lutheran church in Germany when I was in college. I was in a 40-voice a cappella group that was loosely sponsored by that church; we were all up in the choir loft, complete with small orchestra and organ with a mirror. It’s a very special memory of my student years – but St Matthew gets the better melodies, I think.

    Dana

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  8. ” punishments of subversive subhumans, and sacrifices to the gods necessary for the continued domination and flourishing of the Empire itself”

    MOD NOTE: Edited for political content

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  9. The sadistic spectacle entertainment of crucifixion was an extension of the things that happened in Roman arenas throughout the Empire. In fact, the deaths that occurred in the arenas during the Games, which not infrequently included crucifixions, were considered both punishments of subversive subhumans, and sacrifices to the gods necessary for the continued domination and flourishing of the Empire itself.

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  10. Crucifixion…..was meant to indicate to all who might be toying with subversive ideas that crucified persons were not of the same species as either the executioners or the spectators and were therefore not only expendable but also deserving of ritualized extermination. Therefore, the mocking and jeering that accompanied crucifixion were not only allowed, they were part of the spectacle and were programmed into it. In a sense, crucifixion was a form of entertainment. Everyone understood that the specific role of the passersby was to exacerbate the dehumanization and degradation of the person who had been thus designated to be a spectacle. Crucifixion was cleverly designed — we might say diabolically designed — to be an almost theatrical enactment of the sadistic and inhumane impulses that lie within human beings.

    There are so many ways that this basic dynamic is still active in our world today, still very much a part of our public life, and still one of the core elements of both social control and entertainment spectacle. This is the way we continue to crucify Christ, and thereby are guilty not of an act committed against him long ago in a place far away, but for our own active or passive participation in it in our very own time. Good Lord deliver us.

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  11. A terrible grace. A vile inglorious scene. The lamb of God, Mary’s son, the Lord our God without a shield.
    Here’s where we begin, if we dare step in. Here’s how we forgive and are forgiven.

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  12. People always say “Where is God?” …And yet, the one time He did show up, we crucified Him.

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