The cross was a symbol used to mock Christians for what they believed. Archaeologists have uncovered an engraving from the time of the early church which reveals a bit of what the mind of the ancient Roman world was like. The engraving shows a picture of a man with a donkey head being crucified. Next to him is another posture that seems to be worshiping the donkey-man on the cross. The image was a piece of graffiti often referred to as the “graffito blasfemo” that is thought to have been written by an ancient slave who was probably making fun of his fellow slave for his belief in Jesus. With the picture there is an inscription stating, “Αλεξαμενος ϲεβετε θεον.” This is translated as “Alexamenos, worship God” or “Alexamenos worships God.” Apparently, the slave being mocked was a man named Alexamenos. Scholars believe the reason that the man has a Donkey head was due to a widely held misconception in the ancient world that the Jewish people worshiped a donkey, which had led them to water while they wandered in the wilderness with Moses. The artist mocks Alexamenos by pointing to how utterly shameful it was to worship Jesus as the Jewish donkey God, since Jesus had been killed in the most shameful way.
We need to remember just how shocking it was for Christians to choose this symbol. It would be like choosing a hangman’s noose or an electric chair today. Except even more stunning. Crucifixion was invented by barbarians. And later adopted by the Greeks and Romans. It was designed to be the most excruciating form of death possible. And the most humiliating. Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion, except in cases of extreme treason.
This is why Paul writes, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). The world may have scorn and contempt for the cross, but it is the tool God used for our salvation!
Of course, the cross was followed by the most remarkable event in human history–the resurrection of Christ! We will celebrate the resurrection this weekend at 5 PM on Saturday, and 9:30 and 11 AM on Sunday. Be sure to invite your friends and neighbors and ‘ones’ to join us as we worship Christ, whose death and resurrection make our salvation possible!