Hebrews 12:2 ..looking to Jesus, the founder and  perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.

As this verse makes clear, Jesus despised the shame of the cross.

He regarded it with contempt.

He loathed it.

He basically gave it no regard–assigned no credibility to it.

But what specifically did He despise?

The SHAME of the cross.

The Romans were horrifyingly creative at enforcing their laws on those they conquered.

For those they ruled that were not certified citizens, there were certain laws that if violated, would cost the lawbreaker his life.

But they didn’t want to just put certain violators to death, they wanted that person’s execution to serve as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to break those laws too.

With those goals in mind, they created a way of putting someone to death that inflicted the maximum amount of bodily pain possible before that person expired.

That stroke of genius was called crucifixion.

But they also recognized that like themselves, the people they conquered and ruled lived life with  Honor and Shame as the atmosphere within all social interaction took place.

Those born and raised in that kind of cultural operating system actually feared something more than the incredible pain being crucified produced.

This reality meant required that something had to be added to the process of the criminal’s physical death in order to provide the greatest deterrent possible.

What needed to be added was a SHAME generating component.

So, they stripped all of the law-breakers clothes away and crucified them NAKED!

As difficult as it is to say it…unless the Romans made a huge exception for Jesus, our Lord was buck naked when He was crucified.

(Interestingly, because honor/shame still held a high place in Western European cultures from then through the 1800’s, the artists of the past would also portray those crucified by the Romans with some kind of cloth covering the person crucified–even though that was not accurate!)

Public nakedness not only dishonored the one who was completely exposed, it also shamed the group from which their primary identity was derive–their immediate and extended family.

Having lived and served extensively among Honor/Shame-based cultures, I can tell you firsthand that the majority of the people in those cultures would prefer to suffer intense physical pain rather than bring shame upon the group that is the source of their primary identity.

As Americans, we really don’t get all of this.

The reason is fairly simple.

Our social interaction takes place within an atmosphere of innocence and guilt, and this filers the way we understand what is recorded in the scripture.

Good Friday and what we focus on as we commemorate the crucifixion provides a simple example.

When we think of the brutality inflicted on Him and we try to project ourselves into that kind of situation, we think about the terrible physical pain He suffered on our behalf.

And He did suffer physically–beyond my ability to comprehend.

But something else was going on too.

Hebrews 12: 2 makes clear that by enduring the cross–dying the way that He did, and then resurrecting three days later, the physical and the cultural consequences our rebellion against God deserved were conquered.

And not only that.

As Peter declares, because He was put to shame in our place, His followers won’t ever be.

1 Peter 2:6  For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”


Photo by Bjoern Taubitz on unsplash.com