I visited the Catholic Shop next to the Cathedral the other day to buy some tapers for lighting the kiln with, and while the lady in charge went off to price them, I checked out the crucifixes, and on an impulse, bought a small metal one on a plastic base for $5.50.
The figure of the crucified Jesus had been much in my thoughts recently.
Jesus was able to awaken in others, as nobody else had, a direct personal experience of God. Alongside the conventional and institutionalised religious experience of the Hebrews and the Gentiles, it was powerful indeed. He was moved to awaken those around him, to show them God within. Their lives were transformed.
At first, people believed this effect in their lives was solely due to him and only available from him, and Jesus Christ Superstar captures, very well, the sucking, draining "Do it for me, Lord.... Tell us what to do, Lord - we are yours!!" response of the devotees. In making him Superstar, they made themselves worthless, and laid the foundation for the anger that would soon afterwards place him on the cross.
If you recall "The Life of Brian", there is one scene where the devotees are begging Brian for instructions about what they should do. Brian tells them, "Oh, just fuck off!" Comes the reply,"Master, tell us in what manner should we fuck off?"
Back to the small figure of the crucified Christ. Realising God in himself, time after time. Going past the fears and the temptations. Finding the experience, I believe, ever richer. The power to love and awaken it in those around him. Yet profoundly human, and never more so as he faced that last week, increasingly aware and fearful of the challenge that confronted him.
In Matthew's gospel he prays in the garden, "Oh, my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." And twice more. And then the final challenge, abandoned by those who had been closest to him, feeling himself rise to it, once more triumphant in his loving and his acceptance and his forgiveness.
So for me, that crucifix is not really or only about sacrifice or suffering. Each step forward in his life was towards a greater uncovering of God in himself, a vastly increasing richness of experience, beyond that of any human being of his time. And still, he could be afraid, afraid to take the next step; still he could be fearful. I know this man well.