For the next couple of weeks I am commenting on the articles of the Apostle’s Creed. This is for my benefit as much as anything. My remarks are organized only because they are following the outline of the creed. So while they are not systematic, I hope they are not rambling either! I’m giving myself a refresher course and you’re invited to come along. And as you do I trust these few words may contribute something to your understanding of what it is to have faith in the God of Jesus.
The section of the creed dealing with Jesus Christ is as significant for what it does not say as it is for what it says. Missing from this section of the creed is any reference to the teachings and works of Jesus, to what we might call His earthly ministry. The language moves from His birth immediately to His death, resurrection and the events following, including His Ascension to the Father. This pattern is present in all the ancient creeds of the Church. Therefore, it is not accidental.
What is mentioned was of the greatest significance to the early Church. The details of the Christological section of the creed provide the basis and criterion for understanding and confessing what is essential about Jesus and His Gospel.
There is much that can be said about this article, too much for the length of this blog. So I want to focus on the word “crucified”. In this article of the creed “crucified” appears with the words “suffered”, “died” and “buried”. One would think a reference to crucifixion would be superfluous under the circumstances. Why this specific reference to the manner of Jesus’ death?
The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that the event of the cross is the key to understanding the meaning of Jesus entire mission to this world. On the cross, humanity looked upon the One who had encountered them in love and righteousness and dealt with him as a common criminal. The event of the cross, then, exposes human antipathy toward the Living God and puts the lie to all our claims to love justice.
The event of the crucifixion is mentioned in the creed because this event, unlike any other in all of history, confronts man with the enormity of his crime; the theft of our existence and contempt for the Living God. At the same time the cross reveals God’s intention to have mercy on sinners. The Cross of Jesus is the consequence of God’s love. On the cross God reveals His intention to sustain us in all that we do, for all that we do is finally unsustainable and leads to death. In the death of Jesus all our works and all our ways are buried with Him.
Tomorrow: “He descended into hell…”
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”