In the days before the time of Jesus, when Israel was under roman rule and occupation, killing people was a common practice. One could be executed or “put to death” for any number of countless reasons. (One might observe the similarities to some modern day Middle Eastern countries in today’s world, sadly.) There were used a variety of different methods to torture punish and execute those who broke the law or even just stirred up trouble. One could be stoned to death (yes this practice is still in use today in some parts of the world as shocking as that may seem to those of us in more compassionate and evolved countries…) — as barbaric as that sounds they indeed would literally throw large heavy stones at a person for hours until that person eventually died from the abuse or at least passed out. Beheading was anther popular method. Hanging was another. One of the most common methods used during the time of Roman occupied Israel was what they called crucifixion, whereby a man would have his hands and feet nailed to two planks of wood fashioned together in the form of a cross and be set upright to slowly die from thirst hunger exhaustion bleeding out and/or the grueling effects of gravity’s exertion on the body’s organs, especially the lungs — they would literally die an excruciatingly painful death from being suffocated to death or worse having their organs cave in on themselves. For more details on the practice of crucifixion, google it. It’s quite a feat of human ingenuity and imagination and takes a truly sick mind to come up with.
Crucifixion was so common during the time of Jesus’s day that on any given day up to fifty to (some historians claim) one hundred men would be crucified. Crucifixion simply put was not a special form of execution. It was common practice.
Over the last two-thousand plus years since the death of this man we know as Jesus of Nazareth a slow moving (at first) but heavy handed cult of propaganda has been thrust upon humankind, much of it involuntarily mandatory and by force, which has turned much of the modern population of planet earth into self-professed “Christians” I.e. followers of Jesus. Granted some come to it by choice, while most are simply born into the belief system and never give it a second thought.
One of the many ideas and belief systems that automatically tag along with Christianity is this symbol of the cross, or “crucifix” as it is called by some; in fact many people both christian and non-christian alike would claim that the cross just might be the single most important and enduring symbol representative of the christian faith. Anyone who sees a cross automatically associates it with Christianity. But is this even a desirable reality? That’s the question Christians and the larger governing body should be asking themselves.
We all know why this is. Jesus the man died by execution for blasphemy and heresy at the hands of his own people by being nailed to a cross and crucified. So the cross quickly turned into a symbol of Jesus and his ministry. It was a simple and easy to recognize symbol.
But as explained above this was no singularly important event, this crucifixion of Jesus. Thousands before him died this way. Tens of thousands after him. Hell, Jesus wasn’t even the only man who was crucified that DAY, the one that is now known (ironically) as “Good Friday”. As everyone knows there were three men in total who were beaten tortured and executed by crucifixion that very day, Jesus being just one of them.
There was nothing special about the way Jesus died. On the contrary, it was a rather ordinary and commonplace event. When one studies the life of Jesus one is not impressed by or taken with how he died, but rather with how he lived. There are countless more intriguing stories regarding Jesus than his being one of three “criminals” put to death that day. This is why the event itself is barely allotted even one full sentence in any of the history books we have of that time [See the works of Pliny the Elder or Josephus], and most likely why the event is so casually dismissed and NOT paid attention to by Jews. Jesus was after all a fellow Jew. But to them, from their historic perspective, Jesus from Nazareth was just one of thousands of criminals who was executed during the reign of King Herod. So there isn’t much to pay attention to.
The real meat in the life of Jesus, in the stories and legends that have cropped up over the centuries about this legendary man is to be found in the countless miracles he purportedly performed — healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, walking on water, ESP, telepathy and even bringing the dead back to life. The man was a veritable David Copperfield of his day.
His life, though we know so little of it, is filled with magical stories of truly mythic proportions. And this is where and when one begins to become impressed by him. Get to know him well enough and one can easily be led to swoon, for not only was he a quick wit and a charismatic character, but there is much “magic” surrounding those few years we know of his short ministry. He was both infinitely loving tolerant and compassionate towards others AND vehemently disciplined and dictatorial in his rigorous commitment to what he believed to be his mission and calling by none other than God Him/Her/Itself.
This is no small claim, to assert that one believes they are not only in touch with but being guided by the highest most evolved and primal force in the entire universe who created everything. On several occasions Jesus even claims he was the the “son” of this infinitely powerful, all knowing force. Quite a claim indeed.
Perhaps greatest of all the wondrous miracle stories about Jesus though is this idea that less than 48 hours after he died and was confirmed dead he miraculously came back to life, albeit in a more ethereal and less earthly form. THIS is the event that is celebrated around the world on the day known as Easter Sunday. Jesus’s alleged Reserection from the dead. Depending on whose account you read or believe he “rose from the dead” and appeared before many of his disciples over a period of days — some say 40 and others say up to 300; he even still purportedly had the holes in his hands from where they hammered the nails through them some stories claim. Others say he appeared more like a ghostly apparition. But most accounts claim he stayed here on earth after he arose from the dead to preach a bit more and hand out certain orders from God and then he disappeared — as it was retold by witnesses and then embellished over centuries by the Roman Empire, a group not exactly immune to gross exaggeration and fairytale-like hyperbole, he reportedly ascended (as in magically floated up in the air) into “heaven” to sit at the right hand of his father (that would be God… Just where God keeps these chairs and what keeps them afloat is still a mystery…) — never to be seen or heard from again.
Before doing this he promised to return one day and save us all (believers that is…) from a hell on earth that would be flat out apocalyptic. (Are we there yet? It sure feels as though we are. But then again it probably felt that way during the Great Plague or the Dark Ages or The Inquisition or during any number of World Wars we’ve had the pleasure of enduring due to a few overly ambitious selfish and greedy assholes). Hence the whole “Jesus is going to come back (“the second coming” as its called — perhaps because fundamentalist Christians don’t stress the importance of secular education very much — subjects like math and science — it would actually be his third coming if we are going to be literal) –once the great temple in Israel is rebuilt… Bumper stickers referring to “The Rapture” or “End Times” are also related to this idea.
If all that isn’t enough to render the actual crucifixion a rather mundane event, Jesus is also credited for completely reforming humanity’s conception of God and Divinity. A simple examination comparing the God of the Torah and Old Testament with the NEW God Jesus speaks of in the New Testament shows a completely evolved, nearly transcendent idea of divinity itself — more akin to the Godhead of Eastern religions of the day or even the Buddha — compassionate, infinitely loving and tolerant, intelligent, no more playing favorites or being wrathful or vengeful, as compared with the overtly human God of the Old Testament, savage and barbaric and filled with human attributes and weaknesses. Jesus was killed precisely for these reasons. He was if anything a revolutionary and a visionary — in addition to his more mysteriously magical abilities.
It is for these reasons that the cross should not only NOT be the most important and significant symbol of the christian faith as it is today, but it should not even be a symbol of Christendom at all. The cross that Jesus was hung on, just like all the other alleged criminals of his day, is a small detail of the bigger picture, just as an image of a hangman’s noose would be had Jesus been hung rather than crucified. Not only is the focus inherently turned toward something mundane for the time and the larger scope of things, but it is also a rather violent, gory and negative aspect of the Jesus story when considering how overtly positive the story really is. In reality isn’t the whole idea of the christian Faith tradition a celebration of the miracles, the message and the Reserection of Jesus? And not his unfortunate death or how he died? Those are mere sidebars when compared to what impresses the most about the man, his message or his myriad works of miracles.
The cross may be simple and easy to recognize, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t automatically qualify it to be the grand and perfect symbol that it’s become of Christianity.
Some modern day pastors, especially the more “Fundamentalist” oriented, and even some theologians may argue that the most important aspect of Jesus’s life was and still is the crucifixion because of this concept put forth by Calvin and Luther called Substitution — the idea that “humanity is inherently so sinful so as to not be good or righteous enough to have a direct relationship with God, and thus needed Jesus to act as a substitute for us, to die on the cross as a sacrifice to atone for the “sins of man”, and as much as I get this idea and appreciate the beauty of it — Jesus became in essence “a new sacrificial lamb” rendering the regular sacrificing of animals to God unnecessary, thereby creating a new covenant between God and humankind — I do not believe that it is inherently necessary as a Christian (or any other religion for that matter) to believe the idea that humankind is born eternally sinful so as to not be able to experience a direct relationship with God or The Divine on their own.
Of course I make this claim AFTER the fact. I am well aware of this potential irony. Jesus has already performed this action some two-thousand years ago and therefore I am speaking from my own personal experiences of my relationship with The Divine now, after he did this; therefore I cannot possibly relate to what humankind’s relationship with God was like before Jesus’s death. But I would submit that God, if there is one — and because I have had so many personal tangible experiences with this Divine Force we call God, I can easily and confidently claim to know there is — is much bigger than most people give Him/Her/It credit.
While it is true that some people stay focused on and nearly obsessed with their own inherent sinfulness and therefore the Substitution, sacrifice and Atonement aspect of Jesus, this is strictly their trip and as much as they’re entitled to it, it certainly doesn’t have to apply to all of us. Jesus himself when speaking of God drew from such a deeper more evolved enlightened and intelligent viewpoint that he essentially retired this old fashioned idea of a God who is “too good for us lowly humans” from mass consciousness.
This is not to say that there is no credence or relevance to the sacrifice that Jesus the man made when choosing to be executed when he obviously could have so easily escaped or fought back successfully — he was after all the most God-like being in human form that history has ever known, quite possibly he may have literally been “THE God” in human form as he occasionally hinted he might have been. So his execution via crucifixion was clearly his deliberate plan and doing, and not the doing of others — regardless of how much those who did the deed believe they were actually responsible for it. (They’re kidding themselves). He was well versed in the prophecies of the Torah and the Prophets and he planned and executed a very direct path of actions and events that literally fulfilled those prophecies of the coming Messiah of the Jewish people to a tee. [If this is a subject that interests you there are several books — or probably now even websites — that delve into the life of Jesus directly as each event in his life specifically correlates to a prophecy that was predicted and written about hundreds of years before bis birth. Right down to his execution and even HOW he was executed AND his subsequent Reserection.]
So clearly Jesus, after much time attempting to change the hearts and minds of his fellow Judeans through his message and the example of his actions turned out unsuccessful, decided at some point that he would venture down this alternative path of mass atonement of humankind’s sins through his own sacrifice — even though he was flat out telling people for years the good news that God did indeed forgive them automatically because He loved them so much, all they had to do was ask for it and it would be granted; but they just didn’t get it… And then of course to really hammer the idea home he went further and resurrected from the dead.
After all (one is sure he probably thought at the time) who would not be shifted changed mesmerized convinced or transformed through witnessing a man transcend death itself? If it happened in modern times it would be hard to imagine anyone not being completely transformed by witnessing or even hearing about such an event. And yet as we know from history itself the political powers that be in the Jewish religion in Jesus’s time were either too frightened of the repercussions of admitting to owning such a miraculous event OR too pissed off at Jesus for his version of Messiahness being so different than theirs: they were looking for a very primitively temporal and human freedom from bondage and enslavement and instead he offered a much larger version of this idea of freedom.
The truth is we will never know exactly why they decided to kill a man as innocent and harmless as Jesus and save a man as sinister and wicked as Barabas, because we weren’t there. And there exists no known notes from those times, at least none that the Jewish religion has ever released publicly, that explain the reasons for their actions or even their feelings about the incident. Mum has always been the word from the Jewish people regarding Jesus. As stated above already, as far as they are concerned he was “just another criminal who deserved to be executed.”
But even if every single thing that happened to Jesus throughout his short life on earth was preordained by a higher power and even he himself was aware of what was to come and planned it all out — including the crucifixion and Reserection, one still finds that the method of execution was by and large nothing more than a mere sidebar compared to the bigger picture of his message and actions and therefore the cross is simply too simple and too irrelevant a symbol to represent the immense proportions and importance of what Christianity means today. Im not saying it will be easy to create another symbol that better represents the life and message of Jesus. I’m simply saying that it’s well past time for all of us to transcend the symbolism of this simple image and create something else that is a better more relevant fit.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone