Death by the cross was an attempt of the Roman Empire to deter a rebellion. It was hoped that public torture and humiliation would prompt any would be rebels to think twice before getting any ideas. Yet, Jesus consistently makes clear that to follow him means the cross as a way to view the world. Interestingly, words like cross and crucifixion have become somewhat pious and religious and do not cause us to shudder the way our ancestors might have. It would do us well to remember that what took place one Friday afternoon on Golgotha was an execution.
Having said that, my friend Layne and I are making plans for Lent. These plans include preaching about the cross. More specifically we will be preaching the seven last “words” from the cross. This makes it obvious that, at least this year; we will not be rushing past Good Friday to get to Easter. Though we are well aware the grave is empty, we want to recognize that the narrative we live in includes “God crucified” before it includes “He is risen.” Perhaps this is our feeble attempt to “Preach Christ crucified” as the apostle encouraged.
It is hoped that a close examination of what Jesus said from the cross will help us in our understanding of what it means to follow. This is an event that changed the world and the way we view the world. Just like Good Friday and the crucifixion, we want to remember that these “words” belong to a larger story. One that includes both the ministry of Jesus and the ministry of those who gather in his name.