In the Finals of the very recent Cricket World Cup, when the Legendary Indian Batsman the ‘Master Blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar got-out at a crucial moment, the British writer Andy Zalthman described the response of the crowd in the Stadium as follows.
A stunned hush clamped the Wankhede (stadium), as if the crowd at one of Jesus’ miracles had just seen their hero turn a sickly child into a mahogany bookcase, and mumble “Oops”, before scuttling off saying, “Same time next week?”
Seen as a piece of literary analogy, I think Andy Zalthman shows his class. But, as to the the spin he has given in portraying Jesus as a sort of Street Magician/Showman, I think his idea of who Jesus is, couldn’t be more grossly misconstrued from the Biblical portrayal of Jesus as a ‘reluctant’ miracle worker (Matt 12:39).
Back in my college in India, I was known as a Christian. As is often the case, there was a hand full who did not like my Faith. One evening, as I was walking into the Hostel, one of the guy in the antagonistic group said aloud to a few of his friends standing by…
“I often wonder about Christians… They have a Cross because Jesus was crucified on the Cross. What if He had been hung to death, would they worship a ‘hanging rope’ instead?”
As insinuating as the statement was, not to mention the giggles I could hear behind my back, I couldn’t help but be happy about the comment. After all, isn’t is awesome that the focus of the latter insinuation was on the Crucified Lord which is central to the Gospel, instead of being on Christ’s misconstrued miracle working show business.
As Paul says in 1 Cor 2:2, proclaiming the Crucified Lord is more important to the cause of the Kingdom than any wise words or strategic planning or even an army of the committed. The evangelizing commission of the Christian is to PLACARD the Crucified Lord. But unfortunately, ‘Popular’ Christianity of the Materialistic 20th and 21st centuries has done a VERY bad job of PLACARDING the Crucified Lord.
As supernatural as the Birth of Christ is, it is the Death of Christ that simply has no equal. Many religions have some idea of God incarnating in human form. But the idea of God dying as a criminal in the place of His own Creation is an alien and unpalatable idea. I was speaking with a Muslim friend of mine. He told me that it was blasphemous even to suggest that the Creator can die in the hands of His own Creation, let alone being punished for the sin of the creation. Yet, this sacrilegious death is the fulcrum upon which the Christian Faith rests.
Church needs to PLACARD the Crucified Lord to a society that needs the Gospel. Unfortunately, Christian Tradition of this commercialized century gives more importance to Christmas than to ‘Good Friday’. In doing so the image of Christ we PLACARD to the society around us, is more a Santa Claus or a Benny Hinn styled Miracle Performer than the Crucified Lord. A Christian culture that fails to PLACARD the Crucified Lord will eventually find itself conforming to the patterns of the world around it.
Lessening the emphasis of Christmas and Celebrating Good Friday with greater zeal and fervor would be a good place to start placarding the Crucified Lord to the society that needs Him badly. The Good Friday service which goes on from Noon to 3:00 PM is my MOST Cherished service of the Year. In India, it is also the one of the most attended services. In the far East communities, Good Friday is a huge event with community processions etc… Fortunately, the Episcopal Church I go to in Houston has the Good Friday mass. It has a decent attendance as well.
But I am shocked to notice that most Churches in Houston don’t bother to have such a Good Friday service anymore. Some young committed Christians I spoke to seemed ignorant (or just indifferent) of the Noon to 3:00 PM format of the Good Friday service that is celebrated the world over. The popular culture enthralls itself with Easter Eggs and the Easter Bunny. At work, people wish each other ‘Have a great Holiday Weekend’. Christians wish each other ‘Happy Easter’. Every one skips ‘Good Friday’ as though it were something unpleasant to be swept under the carpet. I am little shocked to say the least. It seems to me that the Christian Traditions in the US is sort of upside-down. It seems to me that just as the Disciples deserted Christ when he had to hang for 3 hours on the Cross, most Churches are deserted during the commemoration of those 3 sacrilegious hours the Cosmos cringed witnessing.
‘Good Friday’ getting less importance is perhaps just the ‘symptom’ of a flawed understanding of the centrality of the Crucified Lord to the Gospel. The ‘root cause’ of this problem of the Crucified Lord being sidelined is because our Church sermons seldom focus the Cross or the Crucified Lord. The Church sermons we hear often belie an ‘anxiety’ on the part of the Preacher to make the congregation REMAIN STUCK to the Church either by making them ‘feel good’ and entertained, or by making them ‘feel guilty’ by hitting them with the law, or by making them ‘feel loved’ in the propped-up Church community-life. Different people, depending on what their ‘psyche’ finds ‘attractive’ remain stuck to some variation of the sorts of ‘Crucified Lord-less’ Churches just described. If the Church continues to deal with the Crucified Lord as something to be swept under the carpet, it would no longer be the Corner Stone that causes the wise of the wider society to stumble (Rom 9:30-33).
If the Crucified Lord is the one whom we are supposed to PLACARD to the society around us, I can’t help but wonder why Good Friday has so much less emphasis than Christmas. PLACARDING of the Crucified Lord would at the least force the likes of the recalcitrant Zalthmans to deal with the Rock the causes the wise to stumble, instead of giving them a straw man Showman-Christ-figure to use for a punching-back in their Cricket commentaries.
1 Cor 1
22) Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23) but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles… 25) For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength
Wish you all a Solemn Good Friday and a Joyous Easter!!!