Why the cross?

We are in the midst of Holy Week now. We are close to Good Friday and are living in the shadow of the Jesus’ cross.

When I was in primary school, a class mate asked me with some passion why I wore a necklace with a cross on it. She went on to say that she wouldn’t wear a gun around her neck (another form of weaponry used for state sanctioned murder) and so why would I wear a cross, its equivalent.

This was an excellent question. I don’t know exactly how I replied, but I am fairly certain that my answer was inadequate.

The cross of Jesus has always been contentious.

In the New Testament Paul talks about the ways in which various people view Jesus’ cross. How some see it as a scandal and others as mere foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23).

However, the truly scandalous nature of the cross of Christ is often domesticated. Both those within and those beyond the church regularly imagine that Christian belief is that God ‘up there’ sends his ‘son’ to suffer as some kind of ‘pay back’ or ‘atonement’. In such a paradigm, yet again, violence is divinely sanctioned.

What the earliest strands of the Christian tradition proclaim is rather the reverse and it far more radical. Across sacred texts in the New Testament and the early church it is proclaimed that somehow, in Jesus the divine pitches tent with humanity (eg. John 1:14). That is, somehow, Jesus embodies the divine ‘is-ness’. Therefore, from this perspective it is not that God ‘up there’ sends his poor proxy to the cross, instead it is that the divine actually enters our lived reality, in person, in Jesus and endures our collective violence.

Here we discover the divine who does not inflict or ordain suffering but the divine who endures our suffering, loving us to death.

The implications of this are astonishing, as the work of contemporary scholars such as Rene Girard elaborate. At Richmond Uniting we will be diving into this mystery in our various worship services and you are welcome to join us.


Rev Dr Sally Douglas