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Tree of Shame: The Horror and Honor of Good Friday

Even demise on a cross.

The apostle dares so as to add this obscenity because the low level of his Lord’s self-humbling. Jesus “humbled himself,” Paul says, “by changing into obedient to the purpose of demise, even demise on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Right now, with crosses on our steeples, and round our necks, we scarcely understand the unique scandal of such a declare. However to any new hearer within the first century, Jew or Greek, Paul’s phrases have been nearly unimaginable. Crucified?

We grimace as we speak on the considered nails being pushed via human palms and ft. We squirm at a crown of thorns pressed into the forehead, piercing the pores and skin, sending blood streaming down the face. And as soon as these violent acts had torn flesh and bone, the ache of crucifixion had solely begun. Hours later, many bled out; others died of asphyxiation, finally too decimated to even breathe. This was not simply demise, however torture unto demise. It was nauseatingly ugly.

However not solely was it calculated to amplify and extend bodily ache; it was designed, nearly psychotically, or diabolically, to completely disgrace the sufferer. The horror of the cross was not solely that it was accomplished, however that it was accomplished to be seen. It was not solely actually excruciating however humiliating within the excessive.

“The horror of the cross was not solely that it was accomplished, however that it was accomplished to be seen.”

A few of us may discover the tune of “The Previous Rugged Cross” too mild for the burden of Good Friday, however the second line of George Bennard’s 1913 lyrics captures effectively the importance of the cross within the historical world: “the symbol of struggling and disgrace.”

Machine for Shame

In his e-book Crucifixion, Martin Hengel produces examples of “the detrimental angle in the direction of crucifixion common in antiquity” (7). Briefly, excess of simply detrimental, the entire spectacle of “the notorious stake” or “the tree of disgrace” was so offensive, so vile, as to be obscene in well mannered dialog. Hengel observes “using crux (cross) as a vulgar taunt among the many decrease courses” (9). The mannerly didn’t stoop to such a ghastly topic, whether or not with tongue and even pen, which accounts for “the deep aversion from the cruelest of penalties within the literary world” (14). Few historical writers dared to offer wherever close to the crucifixion particulars we discover within the 4 Gospels.

Within the century previous to Christ, Cicero (106–43 BC) known as crucifixion “that almost all merciless and disgusting penalty.” The historian Josephus (ca. AD 37–100) referred to it as “probably the most wretched of deaths.” Celsus, a second-century opponent of early Christianity, requested rhetorically a couple of crucified Christ, “What drunken outdated lady, telling tales to lull a small little one to sleep, wouldn’t be ashamed of muttering such preposterous issues?” Not solely was a crucified Messiah preposterous. It was shameful.

In first-century Palestine, Jesus’s contemporaries have been haunted by the common spectacle of crosses — and their manifest ache and disgrace — and, added to that ignominy, they knew of God’s personal curse, in Scripture, of anybody hanged on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22–23). Is it any surprise, then, that Paul would communicate of a crucified Messiah as utter folly, sheer insanity, amongst unbelievers in his day (1 Corinthian 1:18)? The honour of Messiah and the shame of crucifixion made the concept nonsensical and disgusting, contradictory and offensive, preposterous and shameful.

And it’s the public disgrace of the cross — somewhat than the ache we could be inclined to consider first — that Hebrews mentions on the climax of his rehearsing of the trustworthy: “For the enjoyment that was set earlier than him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the disgrace” (Hebrews 12:2).

Enduring the Cross

This crushing disgrace of crucifixion gives a vantage on Good Friday that few as we speak emphasize. Theologians usually have spoken of Christ’s lively obedience in life and passive obedience in demise. We would discover some assist on this distinction, however passivity just isn’t the emphasis in Hebrews 12:2.

The picture in Hebrews 12 is strikingly lively — unnervingly so. We would even name it athletic: a race to be run, surrounded with onlookers, and a prize to be claimed on the finish. Jesus’s enduring the cross in verse 2 parallels enduring the race in verse 1, the place to complete is irreducibly to attain.

Which we see in Jesus “despising the disgrace” at Calvary. As David deSilva feedback, to despise the towering, paralyzing disgrace of the cross “entails greater than merely enduring the expertise of shame somewhat than shrinking from it” (433). Fairly, when Jesus despised the disgrace of the cross, he scorned it and decided to beat it. He confronted it. He regarded the looming disgrace within the eye, and disregarded what would have been the ultimate barrier for different males.

However merely figuring out himself harmless wouldn’t be sufficient towards the acute struggling and disgrace of the cross. Endurance to the end demanded extra. Hebrews, memorably, tells us he endured “for the enjoyment set earlier than him.” However particularly, what pleasure might which were? What reward might have been highly effective sufficient to tug him ahead, to complete this race, with the very emblem of struggling and disgrace standing in the best way?

What foretaste of pleasure, or joys, might endure the cross?

Happy to Be Crushed

The Gospel of John, written by Jesus’s closest affiliate, provides us one of the best glimpse into his thoughts and coronary heart as he readied himself for the cross. Two specific sections, amongst others, communicate to the substance and shades of his pleasure as he owned and embraced the cross within the hours main as much as his sacrifice.

The primary part is John 12:27–33, someday after Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Beforehand, Jesus had mentioned “his hour” had not but come (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20). Now he owns that it has:

“Now could be my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? However for this objective I’ve come to this hour. Father, glorify your identify.” Then a voice got here from heaven: “I’ve glorified it, and I’ll glorify it once more.” (John 12:27–28)

No matter we uncover of Jesus’s pleasure, it won’t be trouble-free. 3 times in these climactic chapters, we learn of his being troubled (John 11:33; 12:27; 13:21). However the presence of bother doesn’t imply the absence of pleasure. In truth, the truth of such bother demonstrates the depth and energy of his pleasure, to maneuver into and thru the difficulty, somewhat than flee.

Right here we discover a first supply of his pleasure: the glory of his Father. When Jesus owns the arrival of his hour, that is the primary motivation he vocalizes. He had lived to his Father’s glory, not his personal (John 8:50), and now, because the cross quick approaches, he prays first for this, and receives the affirmation of an instantaneous reply from heaven: “I’ve glorified it [in your life], and I’ll glorify it once more [in and through the cross].”

Subsequent comes a second pleasure: what the cross will obtain over the traditional foe. “Now could be the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be solid out” (John 12:31). Devil, whom Paul would name “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “the prince of the facility of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), can be decisively unseated as “ruler of this world,” and Jesus would expertise the enjoyment of unseating him, and being his Father’s instrument to “disarm the rulers and authorities and put them to open disgrace, by triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15). The tree of disgrace, in time, would disgrace the foe.

“The tree of disgrace, in time, would disgrace the foe.”

Jesus then mentions a 3rd pleasure: the saving of his individuals. “And I, when I’m lifted up from the earth, will draw all individuals to myself” (John 12:32). He can be lifted up from the earth — first in being lifted as much as the cross, as John instantly provides (John 12:33). Make no mistake, within the “pleasure set earlier than him” was the enjoyment of affection. He had come to avoid wasting (John 12:47), and on Thursday night time, he would wash his disciples’ ft to point out them the love that, partially, despatched him to the cross: “Having liked his personal who have been on the planet, he liked them to the top” (John 13:1).

‘My Pleasure in Them’

The second passage — Jesus’s high-priestly prayer in John 17, on the very night time when he gave himself into custody — echoes two of the fun already launched, and provides one additional “pleasure set earlier than him” that brings us again to Hebrews 12.

First, Jesus prays explicitly about sharing his personal pleasure, and that (once more) as an expression of his love for disciples: “These items I communicate on the planet, that they might have my pleasure fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). Jesus’s pleasure — deep sufficient, thick sufficient, wealthy sufficient to hold him to and thru the cross — won’t solely be his, however he’ll put it in his individuals, via each his phrases and sacrificial work: “These items I’ve spoken to you, that my pleasure could also be in you, and that your pleasure could also be full” (John 15:11).

Second, Jesus additionally prays in John 17 in anticipation of his Father’s glory. He remembers that his life has been dedicated to his Father’s glory, to creating recognized his identify (John 17:4, 6, 26). However now, within the consecration of prayer, and on his remaining night earlier than struggling and disgrace, he prays, third, for his personal exaltation:

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son could glorify you. . . . Now, Father, glorify me in your individual presence with the glory that I had with you earlier than the world existed. (John 17:1, 5; see additionally verse 24)

Misunderstand the utter holiness of Christ, and of this second, and we are going to misunderstand this culminating pleasure: returning to his Father, and taking his seat, together with his work completed, on the throne of the universe. The enjoyment of being enthroned in heaven — glorified — on the proper hand of his Father, won’t come some other means than via, and due to, the cross. And his exaltation and enthronement will imply not solely private honor however private nearness. “On the proper hand” is the seat of each honor and proximity to his Father. He wished not solely to have the throne however once more to have his Father.

This coming exaltation, and proximity, is the actual pleasure, amongst others, that Hebrews 12:2 factors to: “For the enjoyment that was set earlier than him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the disgrace, and is seated on the proper hand of the throne of God.”

Foretaste of Glory — and Pleasure

We return, then, to the consideration that overcame the “tree of disgrace.” Good Friday tells us of the cosmic warfare between honor and disgrace. On the cross, that obscene emblem of disgrace,

God selected what’s silly on the planet to disgrace the sensible; God selected what’s weak on the planet to disgrace the sturdy; God selected what’s low and despised on the planet, even issues that aren’t, to carry to nothing issues which can be, in order that no human being may boast within the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27–29)

Good Friday is the good reversal. The utter humiliation and imponderable shame would have saved lesser souls from selecting Calvary. However Jesus willed it, for pleasure. Whilst horrible because it was, it happy him. Understanding his innocence, he anticipated the enjoyment of glorifying his Father, and defeating Devil, and rescuing his individuals in love, and these joys set earlier than him got here collectively in his victorious return to his Father’s aspect, now because the exalted God-man.

As Isaiah had prophesied seven centuries earlier than, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be glad” (Isaiah 53:11). Within the agony and ignominy of Good Friday, he noticed. He noticed the enjoyment set earlier than him, and started to style it, and he was glad sufficient to endure.

Even demise on a cross.


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