What’s “Good” on This Friday? (Day 39)
As I try to visualize the events of that Friday, I can see John, Mary, and their small group of friends standing near the cross. It seems that standing is not the standard deportment that we would expect from people in a part of the world where, as socio-cultural studies tell us, mourners are expected to show their pain visibly through lamentation and wailing. Instead, as the story is described, they are holding the pain as if to absorb it just as Jesus is absorbing it.
These images of Jesus on the cross, with Mary and John standing by the cross, are examples of when religion can be transformative. Jesus and his followers do not transfer their pain to others. All the hatred that is most likely being directed toward them—the hostility, the condemnations, the spite—they return none of it. Comprehending this may take our entire life. The ego hates this kind of diminishing humiliation.
It is through the cross that we can be taught compassion, humility, and patience. Even though so much negative energy was hurled at Jesus hanging on the cross, he did not return any of it. He held it within himself and turned it into something much better. Is that how he “took away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)? By refusing to send it back or pass it on, he absorbed evil until it became resurrection! Is this exactly what Jesus asks his followers to do? Am I being invited to refuse the transmission of my anxieties on to others, and instead learn from Jesus to hold and face my pain without retaliation and revenge? This, of course, does not preclude us from leaving an abusive situation or seeking professional help for our pain. But it means that we do not transfer our pain by inflicting it on others as a reaction to our own suffering.
It appears that most of the pain caused in our world is from all of us distributing our unresolved hurt on to each other. The teachings of Jesus and the stories about his way of life show us how he wanted to transform individuals so that we no longer just keep passing the hurt and pain on to the next generations.
Through experiencing abandonment, rejection, betrayal, unfair judgment, humiliation, torture, and crucifixion, Jesus suffered the worst pain that humanity could impose. He became the symbol of the problem of suffering, especially unjust suffering, and he encountered it by giving up his own life. In nature we see animals and plants that die and offer their bodies for another species and another generation to survive. Is this the true form of love that every one and every thing gives itself up for another? Does suffering then become a necessary tool to teach us how to love and care for one another? Maybe this is why Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:12-13).
Jesus takes on suffering, bears it, and allows himself to be sacrificed. Can we also follow this path and actively join in loving solidarity with all the suffering in the world? Jesus seldom, if at all, asks us to worship him. He does ask us to follow him by trusting his path through this journey of life and death. I believe that Jesus is trying to teach us that God is not watching human suffering from a distance but is somehow in our hurting and pain with us and for us.
Tonight our 4 Days with Jesus continue with a “Good” Friday service. At 7:00pm in the Sanctuary, our focus turns to the cross and a martyred Messiah. We sing. We rehearse and recite the familiar scenes. We listen as voices from the margins of our story bear witness to the surprise, the disappointment, the horror, and the hopes put on hold that day when history nearly stopped. Hope to see you there!