Jesus labored up the side of Calvary Hill with his burden of timber on his back. Stinging from the whips, wilting in the heat, facing a humiliating, excruciating death among criminals, while those he loved abandoned him. He walked on.
Generations of Christians since have proclaimed this ugly moment, this black tragedy, as Christ’s moment of glory. We have asserted that he died once for all. That his death ended enmity and strife and ushered in God’s peace. But the crosses keep being built on the hilltops…
I am born today, the sun burns its promise in my eyes;
Mama strikes me and I draw a breath and cry.
Above me a cloud softly tumbles through the sky;
I am glad to be alive.
Not us, we think, and we say. We wouldn’t be with the crowd chanting ‘crucify’. We wouldn’t be with Peter denying we knew the man bound for death. We won’t and we don’t put people on crosses.
But while we say this millions are imprisoned. Millions more are living in war zones. Still millions more go hungry while we finish our lunch.
Before Jesus was arrested he told his disciples that one day he would come and say “You who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
It is me seventh day, I taste the hunger and I cry;
my brother and sister cling to Mama's side.
She squeezes her breast, but it has nothing to provide;
someone weeps, I fall asleep.
As Jesus hung from the cross in his final moments he had the strength to forgive his persecutors, and then he cried “It is finished.” – by which he meant everything. The whole world. The entire order of things by which we had lived until that point in which some gain only while others lose. The system of violence and oppression, the division between peoples, the need for crosses on hillsides… it is all finished. Forever.
We make Christ a liar each time we build a new cross for the impoverished, the outcast, and our enemies.
Jesus said his invitation would be answered, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
It is twenty days today, Mama does not hold me anymore;
I open my mouth but I am too weak to cry.
Above me a bird slowly crawls across the sky;
why is there nothing now to do but die?
They cut him down and threw him in a tomb. They were done with him, but he is not done with us. He is still crying out that “It is finished,” hoping we will hear before we put another cross up. Before another child dies neglected. Before another bomb goes off. Before another person goes hungry, sits lonely in a prison cell, or spends another winter on the street.
We would not crucify the Christ we say. And he replies, “Truly I tell you whatever you do to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do to me."