By Stuart Powell
The first-century Romans knew how to create spectacles.
In the theater, stories from Roman history were glamorized to build legends. In their military parades, known as the “Republican triumphs,” the spoils of Rome’s conquests were prominently displayed. Even when carrying out executions, the Romans attempted to draw the attention of the crowds by putting the condemned on display as graphic examples of the consequences of rebelling against Rome.
The intention of crucifixion was to create a spectacle by causing the one convicted to suffer in a visually striking way for their crimes against the empire. In Jerusalem, on what we now call Good Friday, Rome attempted to convey the merciless message that the lives of three criminals belonged to the empire.
When Paul looked back at the crucifixion of Jesus that day, he declared a different message to the believers in Colossae.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).
The message of this life is that we all are criminals who deserve condemnation; we all are rebels who deserve the cross. Our lives belong to Almighty God, who overflows with mercy.
Through the cross, God made a spectacle of the sinful forces that condemned Jesus. At the cross, God made a striking display of the failings of this world’s authorities. Thanks be to God that he reversed the message of the cross and turned its shame and condemnation away from Jesus and placed it squarely on the powers of sin at work in this world.
As we partake of the bread and the cup, give thanks to God for the new message he crafted on Good Friday—a message of hope from the spectacle of the cross.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.