In 1857 workers were unearthing a building in Rome on the Palatine Hill which was once used by the infamous Caligula possibly as an imperial palace. As the work proceeded they came to a room where they found what may have been the first known depiction of the crucifixion in Christian worship. But the graffiti artist was no fan of Jesus.
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In the crude drawing that is dated somewhere in the second or third century, we see a man on a cross, but he has the head of a donkey. To his left is someone lifting his hand as he looks at the scene, and below are the words “Alaxamenos worships his god.”
In an early version of what might today be found on Twitter, someone was mocking Alexamenos for his worship of a crucified god and donkey-king, ridiculing him for his stupidity. It was a time when emperors (like Caligula) sometimes sought to be worshiped as gods, and it made no sense to Greeks and Romans that the true God (or any god) would go the other way: empty himself, take the form of a slave, and become obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
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However, that is precisely what the gospel of Jesus proclaims. It seemed like foolishness then and it will often seem like foolishness today. And that is particularly true when it is understood that we are not just to worship this Jesus (and be somewhat Christian), but to follow him and actually live as he lived.
It is interesting and encouraging that in the next room of the house, someone, apparently later, added, “Alaxamenos fidelis” (Alaxamenos is faithful). Regardless of who put down these words, they describe the way God will view those who embrace the foolishness of the cross and humbly imitate the extravagantly generous love shown there. They will be fools for Christ, but seen by God as salt and light in the world.