"To feel the absence of shared humanity, to be killed by the humanity you sought to enrich, is to become Godforsaken."
“They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.”
I’ve spent my entire life in the Church, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of the Crucifixion, Tomb, and Resurrection of Jesus. Some say that’s the Good News—Jesus died for our sins. Then, I’m sure, those that say that would quote John 3:16. But, I’m not sold on the idea that I killed a man 2,000 years ago. Rather than try to explicate doctrine from the death of a political and religious dissident, I view the three stages of the Passion narrative as reflective of the three stages of life we pass into and out of, sometimes living entire lives on the Cross, living moments in the Tomb, or never venturing to experience Resurrection.
The possibilities are endless.
The Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus's crucifixion does not last long compared to other Gospels. In the 15th Chapter, though, Jesus eventually calls out to God, echoing Psalm 22, saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Words of protest and agony, one might say. I venture a guess that there are many people that live here, on the cross. Jon Sobrino writes that there are crucifixions across the world everyday, and with them Christ lives.
The question asked, most often, is “Why?” Why do I suffer? Why can’t I be free? Why must I be beat, cursed, and mocked? Why? One feels Godforsaken without a prayer or hope except to call out God’s inaction. There is no hope of a resurrection, but only the gasping plea for God to answer. Yet no answer comes, no balm arrives, no peace of mind achieved until the final breath is given over.
This might seem an unsettling or pessimistic view, but if we are honest about the hatred our humanity can spew, then the Cross demonstrates itself throughout history. Jesus arrived upon the Cross because he usurped the status quo. He rabbled-roused too much, and when the religious elite and the political posture for monotone existence could no longer stand him any longer, a kangaroo court was gathered.
It was not those that shouted for Barabbas’s release that caused Jesus's death. It was not Pontius Pilate who in the Gospel of John asked, “What is truth?” that caused Jesus’s death. No single cause exists. Rather Jesus lived in light of the call to love and transform humanity, and with it came the precarious possibility that a Cross on a hill might be around the corner.
We know contemporary crucifixions--although we do not call them crucifixions. On a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee shot dead with a clinched cigarette in his hand was a Baptist preacher and Civil Rights leader living out a dream. There’s the Catholic Priest, Oscar Romero, shot to death as he broke the Host of Christ during Eucharist by those who saw him as a threat to the powers that be. There’s Malcolm X who’s message of peaceful resistance after his pilgrimage to Mecca led to his death by those that still favored the message, “by any means necessary.”
Crucifixions happen every day to those silent resistors and prognosticators of change. Lonely and isolated, painful and filled with confusion, the road to the Cross posses no clear map. Rather, the journey to the Cross is a journey deeper into concern for humanity and justice. This is a life lived speaking love to power, truth to power, and a conviction that God has called upon someone to speak and walk alongside the least of these.
Yet, if the Cross becomes the outcome, loneliness will too. Speaking out for justice in any society doesn’t hold the greatest value, as all too often the demands of economy and progress leave justice out of the equation.
To feel the absence of shared humanity, to be killed by the humanity you sought to enrich, is to become Godforsaken.
For those who lives are lived on the Cross, for those who will die upon the Cross, may you possess the fortitude to live into the plead for God and the plea of forgiveness upon those that abuse. May those upon the Cross live into the words of Jesus: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
From the Cross to the Tomb Jesus ventured, and we venture also with no hope for a resurrection.