“There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them… Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
John 18:1 - 19:42
April 15, 2022, Words By: Rev. Sarah Wiles, Image By: Wayne Forte
War rages. Imperial powers invade and occupy other countries. 10.35 million people are imprisoned around the world. 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water.
Jesus still thirsts. Jesus is still imprisoned. Jesus still resides in occupied territory. This is a story we need today as desperately as we needed it two thousand years ago.
It could be a story of despair—yet another person of color, guilty of no sin, lynched by a mob. And it is that. But that is not all it is. This is a story to reflect on year after year, plumbing the depths, finding new meaning, new life in the midst of the dying. For it is God’s very self that hangs dying on that cross—out of love for us, in solidarity with us.
I think part of the difficulty of the cross is that there is nothing to do in the face of it. It is something that happens to us. God is accomplishing all that is to be done. Even then, part of the horror is that it is not even something Jesus is actively doing. It is happening to him. He is the victim. What he does do is accept all that happens. The gospels each add a layer. He forgives from the cross. He cries out in abandonment from the cross. He thirsts from the cross. In all, he dies. We cannot save him; he saves us—in his incarnation and resurrection, yes, but also here, in his dying.
In the face of suffering and tragedy, I so desperately want to do something. I want to rush to the bedside, say the prayers, send the donations, protest, and advocate. And all of that is right and good. But it is not at the heart of what we really need to do in the presence of death in all its manifold forms. Because of the cross, because it is Christ dying each and every time one of us dies or suffers, our primary task is simply to bear witness, to undergo what Christ is doing, to let it happen to us, too.
We bear witness, suffer alongside, join Christ in the dying, like Mary his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene did. We allow what happened to Christ to happen within us, as well. We do not fight the many dyings to self that precede our physical death. We do not give in to the impulse to enter into rivalry, sacrifice, and violence. Instead, we stand there, falling silent, simply refusing to turn away, to be in any other place or time.
It is almost unbearably simple. And, through logic that is almost beyond us, it saves us. When we are willing to undergo what Christ does for us on the cross, we are set free. Paradoxically, in the face of fear and suffering, we find there is nothing to fear, not really. And so, we can bring our whole selves and the whole world to the foot of the cross. We bring all our shame, all our shortcoming, all our sin, all our suffering, and we lay it down, let it die at the feet of Jesus.
Dwelling Among Us
Where is Christ crucified today? In our world? In yourself? Today, like the women, bear witness to that dying.