Where We Stand
“For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried.”
When we profess in the Creed that our Lord, Jesus, was crucified, we may personally or communally identify with Jesus, or with his followers. We may put ourselves in the place of Christ, or recall scripture, and identify with the criminal Jesus saves on the cross beside him. As baptized people we are buried with Christ, as it says in Romans, in his death and resurrection. We are on the side of the savior, and even though Jesus is dying, we know we are on the side of good.
It is important to note that the opening clause, “for our sake,” isn’t found in the earlier Apostles’ Creed. The Nicene Creed made the addition later to make it clear why Jesus had to suffer and die via crucifixion. Jesus didn’t just suffer and die, he did it for our salvation. He did it for all of humanity.
Yet the Apostles’ Creed also made it clear that it was under Pontius Pilate--under Roman rule and oppression--that Jesus was crucified. The Nicene Creed continued that profession.
Jesus came to us to save us, but he did not come into this world as one of its rulers. He was a member of an occupied and oppressed society. His suffering and crucifixion show us that even through death, he stands with the oppressed. By being one who is crucified, Jesus becomes like all who deal with the marks of suffering in the world.
The truth be told, we have all stood on the side of the oppressor at one time or another. We’ve stood on the side of Pilate. We’ve sometimes chosen violence in our hearts, minds, words, or actions. We may have witnessed the violence of a ruling establishment. We may have followed it. We may have turned away from it, but then allowed ourselves to feel nothing.
But if we are to walk in the footsteps of Christ--if we want to dare to see ourselves in the narrative of Christ--we are to suffer with the marginalized, the occupied, the outcasted, the lynched, and the unloved. Christ died for all, not just those who look like us, or who we may choose to surround ourselves with.
This single line of the creed tells an entire story of how we need to live our lives for Christ. If we are going to profess this every week, we need to understand what we are declaring to be as Christians. Are we a Pilate in other people’s lives, or are we Christ like?
Erika P. Tate, M.Div, is a director of faith formation in Chicago. She has a passion for feminist theology, scripture, and the saints.