We aren’t to talk about the cross as though we were apologizing. We aren’t to talk about it as if we wanted people to "pity poor Jesus for what we did to him." The cross can speak for itself and has been doing that for millennia and it has been burying false gods and half-gods everywhere it was truly seen.
Heinrich Heine, German-born poet and literary figure, after quoting the Homeric description of the feasting gods, says: "Then suddenly approached, panting, a pale Jew with drops of blood on his brow, with a crown of thorns on his head, and a great cross laid on his shoulders; and he threw the cross on the high table of the gods so that the golden cups tottered, and the gods became dumb and pale, and grew even paler till at last they melted away into vapor."
Apologize for that?
John Tolkein, the author of Lord of the Rings, didn’t think much of Dorothy Sayers’ writing but any believer is bloodless that isn’t stirred at times by this rehearsal of the plain unvarnished facts of the faith.
Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth was…the God ‘by whom all things were made.’…He was not a kind of demon or fairy pretending to be human; He was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be ‘like God’¾ He was God. Now, this is not just a pious commonplace; it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this…that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is¾ limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death¾ He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine…When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth while…Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously¾ there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of Divine character walking and talking among us¾ and what did we do with Him?...Our leading authorities in Church and State considered that he talked too much and uttered too many disquieting truths. So we bribed one of His friends to hand Him over quietly to the police, and we tried Him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had Him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, ‘thanking God we were rid of a knave.’ All this is not very creditable to us, even if He was (as many people thought and think) only a harmless crazy preacher. But if the Church is right about Him, it was more discreditable still; for the man we hanged was God Almighty.
So that is the outline of the official story¾ the tale of the time when God was the under-dog and got beaten, when He submitted to the conditions He had laid down and became a man like the men He had made, and the men He had made broke Him and killed Him. This is the dogma we find so dull¾ the terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero…
"Now we may call that doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all…that man should play the tyrant over God and find Him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing it for the first time, would recognize it as News; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it News, and good news at that; though we are apt to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.
Perhaps the drama is played out now, and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that once at least in the world’s history those words might have been spoken with complete conviction, and that was upon the eve of the Resurrection." (I added the italics.)
This is our faith and we can become absorbed in the daily newspapers? This is our faith and we can be glued to the twenty-four-hour news stations, listening to the same banal rehearsals from presenters doing their best to make it sound exciting? While Sayers’ summary is in fact the reality of our faith? Is that a miracle or what? And can you imagine what Paul would have thought if he had flipped the religious television channels? When he listened to the tanned, occasionally elegant, made-up and bejeweled babblers with the huge wigs and colored hair that go on and on about as near nothing as you can get while still quoting an occasional scripture? Can you imagine how astonished he’d be if he walked in on one of our customary sermons when we verbally rape everyone outside the building (and many inside it) for every conceivable thing and call it "faithful" gospel preaching?
[Excerpted from The Dragon Slayer. See McGuiggan books]