7th April 2020

Choices

“This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
John 10:17-18 (MSG)

As we approach the Easter season, our attention is drawn to the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the enormity this has for each one of us (Romans 8:32). Could examining crucifixion within its cultural context lend insight into the choices Christ faced? Crucifixion was instigated in early Rome originally as the penalty for incest and treason. When we reach the first century, it was being used for a wider range of heinous crimes for members of lower class and status, particularly that of a slave. Roman citizens didn’t normally die this way as it was considered ‘too shameful and ignominious a death.’

Mosaic law equated slaves to property (Exodus 21:20-21). Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 were a considerable paradigm shift to his audience at that time. Slaves were considered invisible in Roman culture, the lowest in society and their viewpoints were not recorded by historians. Freed criminals had more rights. Christ’s crucifixion publicly endorsed him with the status of a slave.

This method of killing was used to humiliate. Honour and shame were a central part of life with the ‘shame’ aspect considered worse than the physical torture of process of crucifixion. This could involve scourging with a whip of leather thongs, being paraded through the streets to the crucifixion site bearing a sign detailing the reason for the execution. The final affront was to be stripped and crucified naked. Compounding the feeling of utter total loss of power, the prisoner was nailed with feet held off the ground.

In the first century, the Jews were considered a particularly troublesome people by the Romans, so crucifixion was used extensively, with this public display of death being used to terrorise the population. To maximise the psychological impact, these crosses were set up along the busiest roads. Thankfully, crucifixion was banned by Constantine I in 314AD.

Jesus Christ knew the above, but chose to go ahead. As the occasion approached, he said “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” (Matthew 26:39b).

Prayer
Jesus Christ, thank you for your sacrifice, given freely to atone for our sins, that we might have redemption and direct access to God the Father, and receive the Holy Spirit.
Amen

Study by Irene Tibbenham
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About the Author:
Irene Tibbenham is a Deaconess and serves on the Pastoral Council in the Norwich Congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
GCI Norwich
New Hope Christian Centre
Martineau Lane
NORWICH
NR1 2HX

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Tony Goudie
Phone: 01508 498165
Mobile: 07931 580409
Email: tony_goudie@wcg.org.uk
norwich@gracecom.church

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