Convalescing means time for thought and contemplation. I've read the news a fair bit this past fortnight. I have also been reading, though my attention is like that of a hare. My hopping hare brain is reading 'Not Ashamed of the Gospel: New Testament Interpretations of the Death of Christ' (much more exciting than it sounds - and very readable) by Morna Hooker. I read a few pages and then have to stop. Not because the style is off-putting, but because she reveals so many extraordinary things about the death of Christ, which I had previously (naively) considered I knew all about.
For instance, in the Old Testament, to be killed by crucifixion, or 'hung from the tree' as I believe it's termed, was considered a curse. If you died in this manner you were cursed. So this would have been fully understood by those insisting on his death, and by the early Christians. Also, despite nearly 2000 years of depictions of Christ nailed to the cross, have you ever seen a naked Christ? Neither have I. But indeed he was naked. Crucifixion was the ultimate punishment of the day. It was designed both to be as utterly humiliating and torturous as possible and to act as a deterrent to anyone with anti-Roman leanings. Somehow, despite having understood the agonies of Christ's pain, it is the accompanying degradation, the fact of his nakedness, that takes my breath away. I can't think about it without wanting to stop the pain, and to cover him up.
Christ Mocked (The Crowning with Thorns) c. 1490-1500,
Hieronymus Bosch, The National Gallery, London.
In reading the news this week I followed the story of a footballer, who was convicted of the rape of a severely intoxicated young woman. The fact that she was in that state is a different issue. She was as calculatedly preyed-upon as any victim in a dark alley. So how does our male-worshipping culture respond? By illegally revealing her identity to hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people, and subjecting her to vicious, misogynistic, threatening language.
Both the degradation and pain of the naked Christ, and the degradation of the rape and public humiliation of the young woman, reminded me of the story from Judges:
'So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer.’
Judges 19:25-28 NIV UK
Just like the two men who filmed the footballer as he raped, the men of the house in the story did nothing to protect the 'concubine' (she isn't even given the dignity of a name). She was so violently attacked that she died. Her humiliation and pain are unimaginable. Why did no one stand up and stop it happening? Why is the same thing that happened several thousand years ago still part of our 'civilised' culture?
Later in the bible, God says:
‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?'
Isaiah 58:6 NIV UK
This is God's justice.
'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'
Luke 23:42 NIV UK
Shaun Groves set me thinking about what God's Justice means. If you are interested, you can read about it here: