We got back Saturday evening from our trip to Barnesville, Ohio. Sunday (and this morning) I was unable to access this blog but now I believe I have the problem solved. (HT:Roger)
In meeting for worship yesterday, my mind was filled with theologian N.T. Wright's assertion that Jesus' words on the cross were so unprecedented that the gospel accounts of his death must be true. Martyrs were common during the period of Roman Empire, but normally, according to Wright, a martyr would spend his last suffering minutes (or hours) calling down curses on his oppressors and prophesying their doom. It was a language of unfettered vengeance, part of a back-and-forth set piece of power and domination. In contrast, Jesus calls out to God to forgive his tormentors, and further, states that they don't understand what they're doing. This a stunning, radical shift in a martyr's relationship to his enemies. Jesus refuses to speak their language or to participate in their world view. Instead, he responds to them with forgiveness. Dying, he works to end the cycle of vengeance and violence with love, profound peacemaking and compassionate understanding of the other.
Wright makes clear that Jesus not only speaks a language of love, peace and forgiveness, he enacts it. This is what happens on the cross, as Jesus stands in for Israel and models for them a new path.