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noughts and crosses

As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his (Jesus of Nazareth, c. AD 30, Jerusalem) cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Head), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. Matthew 27: 32-38
Crosses are often used today. We use it when we vote. And a person who can’t write makes a cross as a sign of agreement. Plus, we play noughts and crosses. 

When we look at a written cross – not a religious cross - one stroke goes from top right to bottom left, the other from top left to bottom right – as well as vice versa. The sign of a cross is in fact an indication of reversal – of total changes of place. Down to up; up to down; left to right; right to left.

When Matthew wrote his AD 58 eye-witness biography of Jesus he didn’t use the Greek word for cross at all. He used the word stauron meaning a stake. When we read, “Jesus was crucified”, Matthew in fact wrote “Jesus was staked”.

It’s almost as if Jesus’ cross was an historic fixture, a stake, maybe the fulcrum of world history? Everything around it was changing places – up to down; down to up, left to right, right to left. At the cross.

‘Calvary’s cross shows how far men will go in sin – and how far God will go for man’s salvation.’ (H C Trumbull, American pastor and author, 1830-1903) 
Immediately preceding the paragraph in bold above, Matthew wrote about Jesus within the Army HQ in Jerusalem, mocked and mistreated by 600 Roman soldiers. When they led Jesus out, they found a man named Simon, from a town in Libya. They forced him to turn around and carry Jesus’ stake.  That’s one person going from top to bottom, from right to left.

They then went outside the city. In their everyday language of Aramaic, the locals called it Golgotha, meaning skull. But Matthew also records its Greek name as being cranion – head – head of a living person. The very dead skull crosses over and becomes a living head? Bottom to top? Left to right?

Having staked Jesus, the soldiers offered him a mixture of wine and gall. Gall is a terribly potent and bitter substance which would quickly kill the drinker. Jesus tastes but immediately refuses to drink. The bitterness of extended suffering is accepted by Jesus – he goes down. Then the soldiers divide his clothing by gambling. And the blessings of his clothing accrue to the soldiers who bring about that suffering. They go up. 

Is something else happening? Is someone more valuable that all the clothing in the world - about to go down so as to greatly bless and lift up those who are down?

‘The cross is the cost of my forgiveness.’ (Anon.) 
Matthew then reports that, over Jesus and above his head, the soldiers put in place the official reason why he was there on that stake. It read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” The King? Condemned? Staked?  Up tp down. Then Matthew continued, “Two robbers were staked with him – one on the right and one on the left.”

At the cross – the non-religious cross as in noughts and crosses – where are these robbers going? They’re daylight robbers, by the way: the word Matthew uses is not one given to burglars but to those who take by force. Where are they going? 

Jesus is going from up to down by being staked with them. Are they going from down to up? Are they crossing over? Could they cross over? Could they go up? What do you think?

Has the “gone-down” cross-man made a way for others to reverse the down of seemingly inevitable death in their lives?

Sinner Syvret

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