Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Miracles of Morphing 1

posted by Scot McKnight

Morphimage.jpgHere is the first post in a series I’ve developed called “Miracles of Morphing.” It will last through next week.

Three Morphing Miracles

             The Story of Jesus, the gospel Peter preached, was the Story of Jesus’ life, his death, and his resurrection. That life became that death, and that death became that life when Jesus journeyed from Galilee to Golgotha where Jesus was dealt the death-blow of injustice and God dealt out the life-blow of resurrection. 

Then something else remarkable happened. The first followers of Jesus morphed into new people because the Story of Jesus morphed from a culture of death into a culture of life. In particular, one big elephant stood in their room, the cross, and something had to be done about it.  Those who experienced the resurrection-undoing-of-Golgotha morphed the cross.  

Instead of pretending the crucifixion didn’t happen, instead of hiding from it in shame as from a bad family history, the followers of Jesus stared at the cross and watched it morph. The cross morphed from infamy into redemption, from embarrassment into glory, and from tragedy into comedy (more on that below).

Perhaps the least observed miracle of the first followers of Jesus was cross morphing. Those first followers quickly began making the sign of the cross on their heads and hearts, began topping mountains with crosses, began wearing crosses on their neck, and they began painting crosses on walls. Within a few centuries Christians were known for the cross.  Have you ever pondered how weird that morphing really was? Wearing a cross or making the sign of the cross, therefore, must be seen for what it is: the cross was and is an instrument of brutal torture and barbaric punishment. But the Christians morphed the cross from capital punishment into capital importance.





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Jennifer

posted August 5, 2010 at 1:36 am


Scot,
Are you aware of Rita Brock’s book, “Saving Paradise”? Your post reminds me a bit of her work. She talks about how for the first 1000 years of Christianity the artwork in churches was always with Christ alive in vibrant, beautiful scenes – Heaven on Earth. Even if a cross (an instrument of torture) was in the picture, Jesus was standing risen and glorious in front of it. He was never shown dead. That didnt come until around 1000 AD.
It’s a really fascinating book on how the cross morphed from torture-device, into a symbol for life, and then morphed again into a symbol used to remind of death.



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Diane Reynolds

posted August 5, 2010 at 9:04 am


A man once told me that the cross “disgusted” him. He then went on to repeat the Lennie Bruce joke about “if Jesus were killed in the 20th century, Christians would be going around with little electric chairs around their necks.” Exactly right. Why, this man asked me, do Christians want to worship a symbol of torture? All of which goes to show how far we’ve divorced the symbol from its roots. If anything underscores the radicalism of Christianity, it’s the cross. The early Christians were saying to the “man,” you can’t scare us, you can’t defeat and you can’t kill our leader. Your best weapon–the cross–is powerless against us. The cross, which combines all your weapons–fear, humiliation, torture and death–shows our power and your weakness. Love, obedience to God, community based on compassion, mercy, humility and joy, etc, are more powerful than your worst/best weapons. Forgiveness and nonviolence rule. We live in a completely different kingdom now. We don’t need your weapons of coercion and terror and death, except to illustrate how we’ve overcome them.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 5, 2010 at 10:22 am


I remember once Steven Colbert (a Catholic) was talking to someone about the Cross. He jokingly asked, “Why don’t the Protestants have Jesus on their cross?” And I remember thinking, “Because, He is Risen!”
Does anyone know when Christians first started using the cross as a symbol of their faith? I watched the documentary, “Constantine’s Sword” and the guy (name escapes me) claimed that the cross was not adopted as a symbol until after Constantine. He was a liberal theologian who seemed to imply that the cross as a symbol anti-semetic because it focused on the Jews killing Jesus.



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Jennifer

posted August 5, 2010 at 12:45 pm


Kenny – Rita Brock’s book ‘Saving Paradise’ asserts that no churches used images of the crucified Christ until the 10th century. Prior to that, it was not used frequently, and when it was, it was as part of pastoral, beautiful, scenice images of heaven on earth…as if it’s presence were reminding us that even death comes under God’s command. The images are all of Jesus teaching, healing, eating, and enjoying – images of goodness and plenty.
Brock says things changed with Charlemagne, who allowed the death penalty for conqured people that wouldnt convert. After that the dead body of Christ was introduced onto the cross and killing in the name of Christ became a good thing (the Crusades)



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Robert

posted August 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm


I believe C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere that the cross was not widely used as a Christian symbol until everyone had died who had ever seen it used as a method of execution.



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Jean

posted August 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm


Would not the cross itself be one more example of God’s way of taking something that is familiar, common, even terrible to the surrounding culture and redeeming it and sanctifying it forever by His use and for His own purpose? God revealing Himself to the world on a common cross, in a supernatural act, that no other god or person could, or will ever do again. Teaching them (and us) something about Himself out of the familiarity of their lives, and completely changing the way people to this day, see the cross.



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