Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blogging through Holy Week: Saturday

The crucifixion was over so quickly. A deep darkness fell on the land and the temple curtain ripped in two. Christ did not hang on the cross for long; by nightfall Friday he has been laid in the tomb.

But what a horrible thing to experience at all.

“So deeply was the human race enmeshed with sin that they not only failed to recognize their creator and redeemer on his entry into his world, they put him to death using one of the most sadistic and humiliating forms of execution ever devised.”

So says Alister McGrath, in his book Knowing Christ. (p. 224)

“Part of the task of the Christian believer is to understand the full meaning of the cross. … [It] represents the glorious triumph of God over the forces of sin, evil and despair. …It represents the fullest disclosure of the overwhelming love of God for his sinful creatures and his determination to restore us to all that he intended for us.” (p. 225)

McGrath accepted a challenge from Ignatius of Loyala, the founder of the Catholic order known as the Jesuits, who instructed his followers to imaging themselves present at the crucifixion and talking to Christ as he hangs on the cross.

What an uncomfortable experience that is! Not to think about the cross in abstract terms (like discussing a friend behind their back?), but placing ourselves in the presence of Christ in his agony and asking him what he means, how he wants us to respond. Both understanding and intimacy are things we long for and things we fear. They are messy.

“In many ways it was deeply shaming experience, as it brought home to me the shallowness of my commitment to Christ. I began to realize that I was prepared to allow Christ to affect my ideas – but not much else.” (p. 227)

Do we think of “Jesus-dying-on-the-cross” in the abstract, theoretical, and symbolic, or are we willing to turn toward our Friend and be with him in this?

We don’t know much about what was going on in Jerusalem that next day, Saturday. It was the Sabbath. The disciples had scattered the day before. And Jesus? What was going on with him? What does “…he descended into hell” really mean? I want to know more.

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