Volume 16, Issue 3: Stauron
Cup of Shame
Christ repeatedly told his disciples that he must drink the cup given to him by the Father. This cup is sometimes
described as a cup of judgment for our sin, and this is wholly in accord with biblical imagery (Ps. 75:8, cf. Is.
53:10). But we have not yet recovered a full-orbed biblical understanding of salvation found in the cross of Christ. The Lord's cup contained more
than wrathful punishment. This is because our sin resulted in more than the simple legal guilt of transgression (Hab.
In his crucifixion, Christ took upon himself the judgment for our sin. The recent production by Gibson portraying
Christ's passion goes to great lengths to graphically depict the horrific pain Jesus enduredand yet, of course, the film falls short
in many other ways.
A few Protestants have criticized Gibson for his `heavy' Catholic emphasis. But Gibson actually fails to strictly adhere
to both the detail of Catholic Stations of the Cross and the historical record. Others say Gibson did not portray the spiritual
agony caused by God's judgment. This is, in part, an understandable limitation of the medium. However, there was another aspect
of the Cross that Gibson portrayed only incidentally if at allthe
shame of the cross. This was not so much a limitation of
the medium as much as a limitation of his audience.
In our sybaritic society, little concept of shame remains. Most postmodern "Christian" cultures in the west are
largely illiterate in the biblical grammar of shame and honor that once permeated daily life in ancient cultures. Paradoxically, many
in pagan cultures of Asia and Africa today have a better grasp of this
language.1 Had Gibson portrayed Calvary accurately, it would have necessarily drawn an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. Part
and parcel of the indignity of Roman crucifixion was to be hung on the stake completely stripped. The Romans weren't much
for modesty or loincloths for their
victims.2 The malefactors were also flogged
naked.3 The Shroud of Turin, whomever it
may have belonged to, reveals at least 139 lash wounds ranging from the neck down to the ankles, on both the front and back of
While nakedness in front of enemies is certainly one element in the grammar of shame (Ex. 32:25; 2 Sam. 10:4-5;
Is. 20:4), it was by no means the only attribute active in the crucifixion narrative. Crucifixion, the height of shameful deaths,
was considered fit punishment for
slaves.6Scourging itself was a vehicle not only of brutal pain and sometimes death, but also
of great humiliation and shame. Victims often lost control of all bodily functions and soiled
Isaiah foretold that Christ's tormenters would spit in his face and pluck his beard from his
cheeks.This perhaps helps to explain a later verse that states his face was disfigured beyond all human semblances. But beyond the obvious pain and
disfigurement, the tearing out or shaving off of a man's beard was a source or expression of deep shame (2 Sam. 10:4-5
cf. Ezra 9:6). Both the prophecy in Isaiah and the gospel records show that the soldiers spat on the face of Jesus. Remember that
the Lord had told Moses that Miriam would have been ashamed and exiled for seven days had her own father but spit in her face. Calvary's grammar of shame was robust. A great many actions were calculated to shame as well as injure. Christ
was rejected by His people and abandoned to His enemies and denied by His closest friends. He was shamed in being beaten
and killed despite His acknowledged
innocence.He was arrested; prosecuted and slandered before the Sanhedrin, the king
of Galilee, and the Judean governor; struck in the face; despised; insulted with a mock coronation; reviled; buffeted;
exchanged for a bandit; defamed; and sentenced to death. He was made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men. He was
hung out for public ridicule, mockery and sport between the company of thieves. But in this entire process, God was acting to
deliver his Son for our sins.
In most non-western, 10/40 cultures, it is understood that guilt is felt regarding one's actions, whereas shame is felt
over whom one isa sense of personal defilement. The Scriptures have much to say about this personal defilement. They speak
far more richly of shame in relation to sin than they do of guilt (Ez. 16:63; 39:26; 44:12-13
cf. Dan. 12:2; Is.
45:17).Without an appreciation for this truth, we are left with a caricatured Christianityhowever seemingly orthodoxthat lacks the
full beauty of our Lord's salvation toward us.
One verse most of us are more than familiar with is found in Isaiah where God says that we are unclean, and that even
our righteous works are but filthy (menstruous) rags. The word picture there is not one of guilt, but one of ceremonial
uncleanness and defilement. After their sin, our first parents were not afraid of God so much out of a feeling of guilt, as from a feeling
of shame over their nakedness. God's attiring of Adam and Eve in coats of skins is a type of his clothing the church in the
righteousness of Christ. Baptism is a ceremonial sprinkling or washing in Christ's blood to restore
cleanliness. And scripture declares that those who believe on Him will not be
ashamed (Rom. 9:33). Biblically, this means far more than not blushing
over our testimony (Heb. 12:2).