The Apostle Paul says what seems to be a rather strange thing in Galatians. The Christians to whom he wrote did not become Christians until some 15 years after the crucifixion. Furthermore, they lived several hundred miles away from where Jesus was crucified. How is it then that Paul could speak as though they witnessed it? He said this in Galatians 3:1, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”
They could not have been there in Jerusalem and yet he says, “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified before your eyes.” How could this be?
He uses the word, “portrayed,” or in the NRSV, “exhibited, or as Barclay says in his commentary, “placarded before them upon his cross.” The word can be used for putting up a poster, or an announcement where all can see it.
Still, we ask, how was Jesus put up like a poster, portrayed or exhibited as crucified? Paul’s letters seem to offer three possibilities. First, in his preaching. He tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 that his preaching centered in Christ crucified. I can imagine that Paul’s description of the crucified Christ was graphic and vivid. Second, their baptism portrayed him as crucified. Paul put it this way in Romans 6:3, “All of us have been baptized into his death . . . our old self was crucified with him . . .” Baptism reenacts and portrays his death and resurrection.
Third, he certainly would have had their weekly communion in mind. In I Corinthians 10:16, and again in chapter 11, he wrote about the connection between communion and the crucifixion with these words: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? … As often as you do this, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Or, he might have said, “In this act of communion, you lift him up, crucified, for all to see with their own eyes.” Each time we take the Lord’s Supper we refresh our baptism into his death, and we proclaim his death. Thereby, Christ is once again “publicly portrayed as crucified.”
As we come to the table, we can see him in our mind’s eye taking the bread and the cup saying, “Take, eat, this is my body,” and “this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:26-28).