CHRISTIANS throughout the world celebrated Good Friday and Easter to commemorate the Cross and the empty tomb, the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
However, what the cross stands for as a Roman form of capital punishment, and the Cross as a Christian symbol of ‘Life’ through the death and the resurrection of Jesus must not be confused.
This reflection intends to be deliberate with the Christian view that Jesus died the cruel death just once, but the effects of ‘the cross as a form of inhumane treatment’ in the hands of the Romans against innocent peoples continue even today.
On the other hand, the meaning and effects of the Cross in light of Jesus’ death as God’s liberation of sinners into the New Life in Christ is also demanding our faithful responses to work for the cause of justice in unjust situations.
Let me put the horrific act of the Cross in perspective.
The cross is the worst form of punishment that the Romans refused to allow their own citizens to be crucified, regardless of what the person had done.
The great Roman statesman Marcus Tullius (43BC) called crucifixion ‘a most cruel and disgusting punishment.
He went on to say, “It is a crime to put a Roman citizen in chains, it is atrocious to flog one, sheer murder to slay one; what, then, shall I say of crucifixion? it is impossible to find the word for such an abomination” end of quote.
The cross was so distressing that another Roman figure, Cicero wrote “Let the very mention of the cross be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes and his ears” end of quote.
These quotes reinforce the fact that, the cross as a Roman form of Capital Punishment is the worst act of evil.
We often ignore the nakedness on the cross, yet all who crucified including Jesus were stripped off their clothes and suffered shame and humiliation before nails were driven through their hands and feet. Such was the horror of the cross Jesus the perfect and innocent Son of God was willing to give in because our lives are precious in the eyes of God.
Worst still the exercise of passing the death sentence was carried by authorities of the state who were entertaining the death of criminals.
They love watching crucifixion that on one occasion Josephus Flavius the Jewish historian wrote “to celebrate the birth of the emperor, Pontius Pilate had to nail five hundred men to the cross” end of quote.
This is a classic example of a government entertaining to watch the death of its citizens at the expense of sheer joy to watch human beings suffer the evil atrocities of the cross.
It was in the reality of such inhumane treatment that Jesus was willing, and in obedience to the Father gave his life to suffer shame and humiliation.
Evil forces obviously are at work in the hearts of those claiming to be the gods of this world. To deal with them, Jesus was prepared to come face to face with them on the cross, for this is the only way he was able to reconcile the whole of creation back to God.
In light of the horrific effects of the cross, I personally thought, while the capital punishment that put Jesus Christ to death no longer takes place where it was, and anywhere else in our world, its effects of ill treatment against innocent peoples are continuing still in our present time. How do we see the effects of the cruelty of the cross?
The similarities of the cross as atrocious punishment by the Roman state can be seen in our world in the pains inflicted on many innocent peoples, the denying of basic human rights, and the deliberate abuse of money and power to benefit only those in power and leaving ordinary peoples poorer.
One doesn’t need to look further to see, the binary poles between some politicians playing with the lives of their ordinary peoples in our villages and the non existence of decent infrastructures to raise the standard of living to our ordinary men and women.
The evil acts portrait in the Roman capital punishment of the cross can be seen also in systems that entertain corruption, and by those whose desires to maintain their privilege position opted to manipulate the legal systems’ law and order.
These horrific spectacles of the cross can also be seen in the killings perpetuated by arrogance, greed and jealousy.
They can also be seen in the lives of those who don’t care about human life at all. In light of the negative implications, perhaps all in leadership positions down to the humble mother in the home should step back and revisit what we have done in the history of our beloved country.
Pontius Pilate entertained watching ordinary folks committing crime against the Roman State nailed on the cross.
The sheer non availability of decent development for the rural population is it a problem or is it an issue entertained at the highest levels of power to keep the privileged one secure?
One needs to be careful with the tactic, because the forces at work in the lives of those exercising passing the death sentence was to rob the innocence of the weak and even to overpower them. The General Election is close, RCDF the people’s money or individual savings are earmarked to buy votes from the ordinary populace.
Are we going to entertain the status quo? Conscience tells us the buying of votes in whatever way money is spent without the conscience of the voter IS WRONG because it implies keeping poverty with the unfortunates in our communities and maintain privilege and status for those who could afford with money that belongs to the rural peoples. Remember the Roman cross is disgusting how disgusting to steal from the weak, innocent poor?
I assumed that is exactly what has happened in the last thirty plus years of independence. The powers supposed to offer freedom and hope to our peoples, instead of working with the people to fully realize their full potentials in whatever forms of economic activities, they turn and betray the disadvantages by buying their votes from the money ultimately their own in the first place.
Therefore, in whatever way anyone wishing to take, if at the end of the day the act is done with a corrupt mind, it is the forces of evil exemplified in the Roman cross that continues to show its effect today.
On the contrary, the Cross of Jesus is God’s great act of liberation (freedom) because through the Resurrection of Jesus the meaning of the Cross of Jesus takes effects. It is no longer the cross of bondage, but a symbol of liberation to freedom into eternal life.
Believers are no longer slaves fearful of the punishment of death, because Jesus has conquered death. As followers of the way, our true mark should reflect the opposition of Christ to all that is evil.
God’s freed people are those who are able to speak against evil without any figures pointing back at them. So too our celebration of Easter, it can only be genuine if the freedom we received from Christ makes us brave to face the evils that holds our nation from reaching its developed economic status.
Liberated people are those like Jesus prepared to stand for the righteousness/justice of God without the fear of criticism or threat of violence. The notion of a Christian country must be proved in everything we do.
We’re set free through the Cross of Jesus to stand up for the true causes of freedom. It matters because no one would want to see the senselessness of the world to master the destiny of a nation created and given to us freely by God.
It is here that the role of the churches in the country, not just leaders of our churches, but all of us becomes important in nation building.
It raises further the question of strive for the full realization of our ecumenical relationship and a call on all Christians to refrain from attacking one another.
How disgraceful it would be for us who claimed our freedom in the cross of Jesus to remain in division, when we could have been the focus of freeing our nation and its people?
This Easter season has given us so much to celebrate and one of them is the faith in the new life Jesus Christ has brought to us through his death and resurrection. However, lest we forget, there are those who have lost their way in believing in God.
To those who have lost contact with our God, these men, women and children God’s love, mercy and forgiveness continue to reach out to you in Jesus Christ.
This is what the cross of Jesus and his resurrection is all about. By being with us in his humanity, Christ came to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
In short by his death Christ entered into our secret places and went down into our death to find us and bring us back to God through his resurrection.
And those who by choice or for other reason reject God are well assured, if you return to God in repentance, He will open his heart for you and welcome your home coming.
Now that new life is here ready and waiting for you, are you willing to return to your loving, forgiving and embracing God?
And so Solomon Islands, we’re saved not with the evil of the Roman cross, but through Jesus Christ who defeats the power of Satan and transformed the cross to become the symbol of our New Life in the God of Jesus Christ who loved us so dearly even to give us his Son to suffer in our place.
The Lord is Risen, He is Risen indeed: Alleluia.
By REV. PHILEMON AKAO
St. Mark School of Theology
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