But if the Messiah’s crucifixion was scandalous to Jews, it was sheer madness to non-Jews. The early cultured despisers of Christianity had no trouble mocking the very idea of worshipping a crucified man. A famous cartoon from the Palatine in Rome, dated to some point during the first three centuries of the common era, makes the point. It reads, “Alexamenos worships his god,” and features a crucified figure with a donkey’s head (below).
How easy it would have been for the early Christians to tone down the fact of the cross, to highlight instead the life-giving force of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit. How “sensible” it might have been to draw a discreet veil over the manner of Jesus’s death that had preceded this sudden new life.