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War Cry comments on a moment in history

The cross continues to grip individuals

HISTORIAN Mary Beard was looking at a painting of Jesus’ crucifixion. Reflecting on the Tintoretto masterpiece during BBC Two’s Civilisations on Thursday (22 March), she said the message of the painting was that ‘the Crucifixion is both a historical event in past time and a religious event which breaks down the barriers of time and space’.

Images of Jesus’ crucifixion have for centuries been so prevalent in works of great art that it is possible to forget that, in one sense, they are a portrayal of what was an ordinary – if brutal – event in the ancient world. In 4BC the Roman governor of Syria had 2,000 Jews crucified. Generally, the Romans reserved crucifixion as a method of capital punishment for lower classes and foreigners. When it comes to the Roman governor of Judaea’s execution of Jesus of Nazareth in about the year AD30, scholar E. P. Sanders says that Pontius Pilate probably ‘sent him to the cross with not a second thought’.

Pilate can hardly have imagined the number of thoughts that would be had about that one execution all round the world and through time.

Two millennia later, historians consider its meaning in civilisations. Artists still grapple with it as a symbol. But more than that, as the days leading up to Good Friday show, the cross continues to grip individuals.

In this week’s issue of The War Cry rap artist Guvna B talks about losing his father and says he finds hope because at the first Easter ‘there were tough times on the Friday and then God came through on the Sunday’ with Jesus’ resurrection.

The cross underpins the faith that helps people find hope, break free from damaging patterns of behaviour and work for peace. It gives them a glimpse of the lengths to which God has gone to demonstrate his love for humankind.

Countless people are still discovering the worth of giving the cross a second thought.

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