Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Cross (as in the Cross of Christ) (08/17/06)
TITLE: Hanging Tree
By Ed VanDeMark
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I’m not a historian. My last official history course was “History and Government of New York State” the 1961 college version. Movies and television often give us a twisted perspective but even that sometimes inaccurate presentation can be useful.
I served in the United States Navy during the Viet Nam war but was never sent to the war zone. We played war games with friendly forces in the Mediterranean and faced the reality of war in our contact with Russian ships and planes. Even that reality didn’t drive home the gravity of war the way the opening scenes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” did.
The cross of Jesus Christ is sanitized in our neat clean politically correct society. We wear the cross as jewelry. Protestant churches show the cross as empty because Christ is raised from the dead. Our Catholic friends tend to show Him hanging on it because they want to remind us of His agonizing death. But it took the movie “The Passion” for that reality to come home to many of us.
The Viet Nam war continued as long as the soldier and sailor deaths were reported as body counts. The war started coming to an end when body counts were replaced with real names of real people with home towns and families a lot like ours.
Western movies portray rapid justice. A bad guy is convicted in Judge Roy Bean’s court and taken just out of town and publicly hanged from a tree. Many of our states do execute men and women convicted of heinous crimes but not until a decade of appeals are exhausted and the public loses interest in their crimes. The executions tend to happen behind closed doors at 12:01AM with a carefully selected group of witnesses.
Jesus was accused over night then as the sun rose in the sky He was dragged badly beaten and bloodied through the streets of Jerusalem to a hanging tree just beyond the city limits. He was thrown onto the cross, large spikes were slammed through his hands and feet then he was raised and abandoned to die. Hard hearted people watched him suffer not with sympathy but with jeers and taunts. Helpless friends and family stood in the crowd and saw their world come to an end. The brutality of execution on that cross was real for those who loved Him but for Jesus the truly horrible part of His death occurred when God turned His back on Him and frigid eternal darkness entered. This is the agony that we miss in our neat and clean society that makes a big deal out of paper cuts. Our crosses are beautiful the blood has been washed away and we become calloused to the gift of salvation. Sometimes I think that Christians need to be as expressive as a red necked bigot at a NASCAR race when it comes to the cross of Christ. Sometimes I wish we would all show up at church on Sunday morning without washing off the sweat of a hard Saturday’s labor under the blazing sunshine.
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