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Published by Joseph Winston

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Published by: Joseph Winston on Apr 28, 2008
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Crucified God
The Rev. Joseph WinstonApril 6, 2007 (Good Friday)
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Roman Empire was an effective killing machine. That is how the world’ssuperpower kept the peace.Rome had been the seat of power for nearly five hundred years and there stillwould be almost five hundred years before power would finally be wrestled awayfrom Rome. Caesar Augustus was in the capital city and he was intent on consol-idating and keeping his power. In order to do that, he needed peace at home.One prong of his plan was to eliminate the infighting between the differentpower brokers. He implemented this action with ruthless efficiency. The manydifferent forces were consolidated into his own private army. The solders in thesedisperse armies needed to be properly motivated. To do this, Augustus reinstated
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3
the ancient practice of decimation. If a cohort, a force of four hundred and eightymen, failed in battle, they were randomly divided into forty-eight groups of ten.Then lots were thrown in each group to identify the one man that would be killedby his compatriots. In Caesar’s world, it was either to kill or be killed. Caesar alsoneeded a way to keep all of the underclass strictly in line. This, the second part of his successful strategy, was required since the lower class outnumbered the eliteby a nine to one ratio.Crucifixion achieved this goal of maintaining the peace by shaming both thevictim on the cross and his entire family. This happened because society lost con-trol of the criminal’s body. While alive, he was publicly humiliated on the cross.During the days he hung on the cross, your friends and your neighbors knew whatyour son had done and he became an example for others. This dishonor contin-ued after the criminal’s death because he could not be buried because his bodynormally remained on the cross where it was mutilated by vultures.If public embarrassment was not an effective enough deterrent to prevent youfrom stepping out of line, there always is the pain associated with the cross. Inmost cases, death comes slowly by suffocation. Even today, almost seventeenhundred years after crucifixion was outlawed in the Roman Empire, we still havephrases in our vocabulary about the torture of crucifixion. For example, we say,“The pain is excruciating.” which literally means that the pain comes out of cru-cifying.Tonight’s Gospel lessons reminds us of the harsh reality of how the Romanpeace is executed. You get in the way of the Empire and you will die. This is2
exactly what has happened to Jesus. God stood up to the abuse and to the sufferingof the masses. The result was not hard to predict. God is brought to trial. Aftera brief interaction between the Word of truth and the power of the world, theanointed Son of God is sent out for public humiliation and is whipped. Nothingcan stand in the way of their total domination. Jesus must die.So they take the Son of God, to “The Place of the Skull” and string Him up onthe cross. The sign above His beaten brown reads, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” This King has been beaten in battle and Rome has won. All hail Caesar,bringer of peace.Sinistheoldancientstorythatweallknowbyheart.Webelievethatwecannottrust anyone (John 16:8). The results of our suspicion can be seen everywhere inthe world. In the time of Caesar, the results of this mistrust normally were veryclear. If those in power did not have faith in you then you were put to death.Slaves, foot soldiers, and senators could testify to this basic fact. Today, the storyisexactlythesamewithonesmalltwist.Forthemostpart,wenolongerphysicallycrucify people anymore. Instead, we ignore them. This is the modern difference,which separates us from the Romans and those men who put Christ to death. Thelack of attention to those in need is a certain death sentence that plays out in streetsand in rent-houses over weeks and months rather than on a cross for a few days.The four hundred thousand who have died in Darfur during the last four yearsare silent witness to this type of mistrust. The 25 million deaths from AIDS since1981 add their voices to the inaudible chorus. Tonight, we remember the ultimateform of this lack of faith. God is put to death.3

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