Cross-Shattered Christ Reflection from Stanley Hauerwas

The following is an excerpt from Stanley Hauerwas’s Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words:

The First Word

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Recall holding a just-born infant, or think of an occasion when you cradled a sick and soon-to-die grandparent or elderly friend. We are drawn to embrace those we love, but they can be so precious, fragile, and beautiful that we fear to take hold of them. These cross-shaped words of Jesus, words uttered in agony, put us in a similar position. We are at once drawn to these words, but we fear taking them in our hands, realizing that we cannot comprehend their power.

To comprehend these words we rightly fear would threaten all we hold dear, that is, the everyday. Everyday death always threatens the everyday, but we depend on our death-denying routines to return life to normality. But this death, and these death-determined words, are not ordinary. This is the death of the Son of God, a death that encompasses death, challenging our assumptions that we have or can “come to terms with death” on our own terms. To comprehend this death, to be faced with these words, means life can never return to normal.


Is it any wonder we find Good Friday so shattering? On this day and with these words, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” all our presumptions about God and the salvation wrought by God are rendered presumptuous. Moreover, that is how we discover that what happens on the cross really is about us, but the “what” that is about us challenges our presumptions about the kind of salvation we need. Through the cross of Christ we are drawn into the mystery of the Trinity. This is God’s work on our behalf. We are made members of a kingdom governed by a politics of forgiveness and redemption. The world is offered an alternative unimaginable by our sin-determined fantasies.


©2004 Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.