One of my classes this semester is concentrated in the writings of Paul with Professor Craig R. Koester. Because of COVID-19, we have been taking online classes through Zoom and doing weekly post on our readings. I wanted to share two of my post for this class. In this weeks post, they both have to do with Jesus’ crucifixion. Professor Koester wanted us to comment on reasons why people in our own contemporary context might be put off by preaching of Jesus’ crucifixion (post 1), and after doing our week’s reading, write a reflection on what the importance of preaching Jesus’ crucifixion might be in your contemporary ministry context (post 2).
In the contemporary context, it is hard for clergy to preach on the crucifixion because it is showing the church audience that because of their sins is why Jesus was crucified. It created a pointing finger conversation, even as the crucifixion is a powerful scene that represents freedom from sin. I come from Roman Catholic upbringing, where crucifixion means your faults, sins, and shortcomings are not going to let you reach heaven. The only way to do so is by penance, which is done on a constant basis. In current contemporary context, we can see how many see themselves as the one being crucified. Their point of view might be from being crucified by the church, family, friends, society, government, communities, etc. Therefore, to preach on the crucifixion is preaching about the hurt of people. Opening wounds that stay open after Sunday service with no one to help them heal. I would say, therefore, this is one reason most clergy stay away from preaching from it.
But, looking at the same contemporary context, one can argue how gaining an understanding of what lead to the crucifixion is not pointing out the faults of sinners, but pointing out to them how it gives them freedom from theirs sins. That the crucifixion means ultimate love for them even as sinners. Maybe the answer to surpassing this situation is to have more conversations about Jesus’ crucifixion. In such discussion, then the leader can open up the space for healthy discussion on what makes some uncomfortable about it or puts them off.
According to the readings by Martin Hengel, the crucifixion was the most cruel, humiliating, and painful penalty the Romans imposed primarily inflicted on the lower classes, slaves, violent criminals, and unruly elements in rebellious providence. Therefore, most church audiences associate the crucifixion with the same. It would be important to show to the members that even as Jesus went through that humiliation, it did not stop Him succeeding in fulfilling the prophecy. He also succeeded in releasing everyone from their slavery to sin. The crucifixion shows how Jesus, even as He could have saved Himself, He chose to go through the same suffering we go through.
In His own journey to the cross, He was worried and prayed to God about His fears but continued forward knowing the outcome. Much like many have chosen to go through a journey of suffering for the wellbeing of others. I think, in these moments in the middle of a pandemic where many are looking for their own wellbeing and forgetting about “the neighbor”, it is important to preach about the crucifixion. Not with the intention of shaming as the Greco-Romans would have done, but the intentions of bringing awareness of how Jesus until the end of His path to the cross, always kept “the neighbor’s” wellbeing in the forefront of His ministry and life.
Now that I have shared this with you, I am interested in your opinion on preaching on Jesus Crucifixion. What are your feelings about it? What is your experience when hearing a sermon on Jesus Crucifixion?
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