RHYTHM: A Lynched God – Galatians 3

Lectionary for youth ministry galatians 3Tuesday before Proper 7: Galatians 3:10-14

Reading: Galatians 3:10-14

A Lynched God

Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.

I’ve heard some interesting debate on whether Christ was crucified on a t-shaped cross with either a high or low crossbar, or—much in the style of a lynching—simply hung in a tree. There are loads and loads of famous (and infamous) depictions of the crucifixion, but last year in a lecture at a youth leadership event in Texas I learned an interesting fact: it is believed that the very first depiction of the crucifixion was not only graffiti, it was likely a young student’s taunt of another student. Known as “Alexamenos graffitio,” it depicts a poorly drawn donkey-headed Jesus, crucified, with a lone figure at the foot of the cross. The derisive inscription reads, “Alexamenos worships his God.”

With some digging, it would appear that there’s an odd historical misconception that Jews worshiped some kind of donkey-shaped god—hence the unusual headpiece on Jesus. I don’t really know why I find that so striking—the first depiction of the crucifixion was a joke; now we wear crosses as necklaces. What gives?

The cross as art—or jewelry, or home décor—has always troubled me. If someone I knew gave their life for me, I’d be horrified by the image of the place they died—particularly if it was a killing. I can’t imagine having it cast in gold and wearing it around my neck. I appreciate it in the sanctuary; it’s a reverent environment. Anywhere else I always pause over its use. I know that the work of the cross is a mystery, but I don’t think one day it will be confirmed that Jesus died so that we could have a recognizable logo.

For reflection:

What do you feel when you see the image of the cross? What does it mean to you?

What do you think happened at the cross, beyond the physical death of Jesus?

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