I bought a silver crucifix a few weeks ago. It is about an inch and a half high and very modern in style – the figure is not at all realistic, but sleek and stylized. Almost a stick figure. I had either dreamed or imagined one very similar to this one and when I saw it, I just felt like it was meant for me. I had been thinking during holy week about the passion and it took on new significance for me this year.
I always associated such things as wearing a cross or especially a crucifix with Catholicism. I am not Catholic. As I was growing up I often heard critical comments from very fundamentalist protestants such as, “Jesus isn’t still on the cross. He’s alive.” But that doesn’t keep them from having pictures of the nativity – He’s not still a baby, either! What this little symbol means to me is very personal, and not what other people may read into it or assume it means.
I had studied Isaiah earlier this year and found a lot of verses that were prophecies of Christ that were fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. But more importantly for me, at this time, they were evidence that He could identify with my situation – and I with His.
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
Those words absolutely resonated with me in a new way. “no beauty… (not) desire(d)… despised… rejected… sorrows… grief… hid(den from)… not esteem(ed)… stricken… smitten… afflicted… wounded… bruised… chastisement… stripes… oppressed… opened not his mouth… as a lamb to the slaughter… silent… “
All of these I can identify with. I hope it doesn’t sound blasphemous – but for the first time, I felt I had a lot in common with Jesus. I could identify with Him and felt like He could identify with me. Not that what I went through was anywhere near the level of his suffering – but I now realize that He understands all the shame and pain of my past.
“7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,” Check! Me too.
“Yet He opened not His mouth;” - Check! I kept quiet about it for decades.
“He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,” - Check! I was innocent – but that didn’t save me.
“10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.” - - - OK – I used to see this in a totally negative way – that it was God’s will that Jesus and I both suffered. And I had a huge problem with that. How does that work with the assumption of love that is supposed to be there? It sounds almost sadistic.
BIG revelation for me here – God loved/loves Jesus – right?!
SOOOOO – that means that since Jesus suffered as a part of God’s will and plan – then that means that extreme pain experienced by the sufferer does not negate God’s love. God’s love and our suffering CAN both co-exist – as paradoxical and confusing and inconsistent and contradictory as that may SEEM to me. The most important difference that I can see is that the suffering of Jesus had a practical purpose and goal that was accomplished – our redemption. My suffering – I HAVE to believe – was not planned, willed or ordained by God – but can be used by Him to produce something good if I allow it. Like recycling – salvaging, or the flower growing out of a manure pile (thanks, JustScott!) It was Jesus’ job to suffer to help me. (God loves me that much?!) It was an unfortunate and tragic result of others’ sins. What I suffered was also an unfortunate and tragic result of others’ sins – but it had no fore-ordained goal by God. It was totally human in origin and cause. It is only God’s grace that can turn it to good – like Joseph’s statement about taking what his brothers intended for evil and using it for good.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
Yet the LORD laid on him
the sins of us all.
8 Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.[b]
So many words that so accurately describe how I have felt.
“We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.” – Right – everyone turned away and didn’t want to know or admit what was being done to me. I was despised for their misdeeds. Nobody cared.
“Stripes” & “whipped” & “beaten” – I was whipped by the step-father.
“And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!” – I felt like I must be bad because I was being “punished” and took a load of undeserved guilt.
“unjustly condemned” – indeed – my whole life has been doing penance for sins that were not of my doing.
Another interesting note – the cross on the necklace I bought is missing the top part that normally sticks up behind the head, above the horizontal bar. I had to look it up to see why it is shaped that way – had to be intentional – not just an accidental mistake. It is called a “tau cross” and I found some great interpretations of it:
“The Tau Cross appears in artworks depicting Moses when God told him to "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." (Num. 21:8). Jesus prophesied his own crucifixion by saying "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14-15.) This anticipation of His own crucifixion leads to another name, the Anticipatory Cross or the Advent Cross, and used by some churches for Advent… “
Ezek. 9:4 (NET)
And the Lord said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst of it."
“This is taken to mean that those who sigh (out of grief for other men's sins and sorrows) and cry (openly bewail the abominations of wicked Jerusalem), should be identified by a mark. In short - God's faithful followers should have their foreheads marked for salvation. The mark made was that of a Tau cross. (Little did the writers know that centuries later, a cross would have a further dedication as a mark of salvation.) The assumption that the mark was Tau is from the Bible's earlier Latin Vulgate version…”
“Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and this has significance: it represents the fulfilment of the revealed word of God.”
“The Tau is also known as the Crutch Cross, which gets its name from the similarity between the letter 'T' and a walking aid. Indeed, the Christian cross is used by many people for their journey through life.”
(me: I LOVE that symbolism – that the cross – and the life/death/resurrection of Jesus – helps me to walk in spite of my weakness and brokenness just as a crutch does an injured or disabled person! Like the saying – “Sure, God is a crutch! – But who isn’t limping?”)
So that is why I bought and wear a crucifix. To remind myself of what I have in common with Jesus and the fact that He has experienced even worse abuse that I have and that he understands my feelings. It is comforting. I feel closer to Him – not because of any magical or mystical significance residing in the artifact. It is a visible and tangible reminder that I am not alone!
A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense to not himself.
Or just as mad.
So there you are.
Stark raving sane.
- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead