What I wrote yesterday about viewing Jesus’ temptations and time in the wilderness as a time of positive choice rather than rejection reminded me of a poem I read at university, The Dream of the Rood. This is an old Anglo-Saxon poem in which the author has a conversation with the cross (the rood) of Christ and switches to the tale of how Christ was crucified from the perspective of the cross. It’s a strange and special read and I recommend it.
The reason it sprang to mind is the way that the cross describes cross coming to be crucified. Instead of the passive acceptance that we are most likely to associate with Christ’s journey to crucifixion the rood describes him as climbing the cross, like a warrior making a choice to fight. The language is strong and passionate and the image of Christ is of a great leader and lord fighting against the enemy with his faithful retainer, the rood, who is destroyed and resurrected with his master.
It’s a picture that was painted for a very specific time, for a people to whom war and fighting meant identity. To respect and honour their lords they needed to know that they were strong and powerful, could lead them in battle and in peace and bring them wealth and security. Framing the power and the leadership of God for this people was the way to talk to them about him and encourage them to learn more.
But this is important for us too. We can be prone to under play the power of God. The choices he makes, the action he takes. We find the scene with the money changers uncomfortable, we don’t give God his due in terms of power.
The Dream of the Rood give a new framework for an understanding of Jesus’s temptations. And we all new need perspectives on God, otherwise we take him for granted.