HOW NOT TO MISUNDERSTAND THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS by Silverio Gonzalez for Core Christianity
When I entered evangelical circles for the first time, I was assaulted with an entirely new vocabulary and culture. Language like “born again,” “believer,” “the Word,” “walk with God,” “worldly,” and “the world” and cultural references about “purity,” “holiness,” and “youth group”—this world was alien to me. I had grown up Roman Catholic and had been baptized into a very different context and language. “Worldliness” meant about as much to me as “Nacimiento” would have meant to my new Evangelical friends. Through the years, I have kept this experience in mind as I read the Bible realizing that Christians have strange language—whether they are low church Evangelicals attending a “Bible-Church” or High Church Anglicans who glory in the “Paschal mystery”—because the Bible itself comes from the foreign worlds of the Ancient Near East and the underside of the Greco-Roman Empire that testifies to the mystery of God become man for us and our salvation.
In the Gospel of John, “world” appears on almost every page. In using “world,” John refers to creation generally, creation as affected by sin, the political powers of the day, or some combination of these. Generally speaking, the world is the place, the people, and the order of reality that God came to redeem through the work of Jesus Christ—this is what John meant in that famous verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Here I want to focus on how John’s language of world takes on a darker shade, the world as affected by sin, and from John we learn three basic ideas about how Jesus related to the world as the sinful order reflected in the social and political powers that rejected him.
1. The world rejected Jesus.
In John 19 Pontius Pilate delivered Jesus to the Roman guards to be flogged. In keeping with the custom of making crucifixions as public humiliation and as possible, the guards decided to have some fun. They made a crown of thorns and placed it on his head. They dressed him in a purple robe, the color of royalty, and the proceeded to mock him saying, “Hail King of the Jews” as they “struck him with their hands” (John 19:3). The scourging followed after that.
While Jesus was receiving the beating of his life, the kind of beating that might kill the victim before crucifixion could even happen, Pilate went before the crowds: “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him” (John 19:4). John records Pilate being torn. He didn’t want to crucify Jesus. He was fine with the beating, but when Pilate presented Jesus before the crowds, Jesus’ fate was sealed. When the guards brought Jesus out before the crowds, the humiliation transferred from Jesus to the people. The mockery was clear. Jesus stood before them, a bloodied, humiliated, defeated king.