‘Let us look to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.‘
When Linda and I visit Rome we stay at a hotel in the Piazza della Rotunda (location of the famous Pantheon). Just around the corner is the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, built over the site of an ancient temple to the goddess Minerva, thus the name (Saint Mary on Minerva). The church is distinctive in several ways; it is the only Gothic style church in Rome, contains the burial place of St. Catherine of Siena, Fra Angelico, works by Bernini and the statue pictured above by Michaelangelo, Christ the Redeemer.
Michaelangelo’s design captures something of what the writer to the Hebrews proclaims. The great sculptor depicts Christ embracing the cross and the other instruments of His passion, yet even here, after the Resurrection, the Lord’s face is turned away from the cross, “despising it’s shame.” Suffering and death are now subject to Him. The victory has been won and the promise of the new age to come is secure. Now Christ Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, the place of power, language which underscores the certainty that God’s work of Redemption will be carried to completion.
It is fitting, it seems to me, that this depiction of the Risen Christ should embrace the cross. For the message of the Gospel – Christ crucified and risen for sinners – is now the instrument used by the Risen Lord to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify the faithful. Jesus has turned the tables. Now suffering and death, though no less real, have lost their hold, their sting. Although in this old age of sin we must endure suffering and death, the crucified and Risen Lord assures us that the new age has begun. One day, on that great and glorious Day, the work of Redemption will be complete and “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” will lead us into the joys of God’s eternal kingdom.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
photo by Pastor Mark Anderson