“Jesus was not the first faithful Jew who died on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem — nor would he be the last. In 4 B.C.E., Varus crucified two thousand Jews there, and in 70 C.E. Titus crucified five hundred a day — for how many days? Those first followers of Jesus… believed that Jesus was their awaited Messiah, their expected Christ. They did not think that Jesus’ was just another Roman execution. But neither did they think that he died alone.
He died, for them, as the climax of all the suffering of Israel, as the consummation of all those prayers of lament in the psalms, as the fulfillment of all the faithful martyrs of the biblical tradition.”
-New Testament Scholar John Dominic Crossan
Good Friday is the day we take time to meditate on the somber reality of the price and fulfillment of God’s love for us—the cross of Jesus Christ. But the quoted excerpt brings to the fore the historical reality of Jesus’ cross we most often are ignorant or forgetful of… that a tyrannical empire was crucifying noble Jewish believers every day during Jesus’ time. In one sense, Jesus was just one Jew being crucified amongst many others, often for reasons similar to his.
The Cross for Jesus was the premiere fulfillment of what is called the Incarnation. The Incarnation was the taking up of the experience of being a human, the bearing of our sin. Every human bears the weight of living in a sinful world. Every human suffers and dies. And in the Incarnation, God took on that same humanity.
I pray that this Good Friday will remind us that Jesus had to endure crucifixion, not because God needed to blow off some steam on somebody because of God’s rage issues, but because God needed to experience the world in order to have solidarity with it, and the world we live in is a crucified world.
There are all kinds of empires in this world in different forms, crucifying the marginalized and oppressed. People are suffering all around us. Across the globe and in our own neighborhoods, the powerful continue to deviate from God’s just will to crucify the powerless.
But God took on their suffering on the cross. Are you too willing to take on the suffering of your world for the sake of its salvation? Are you willing to become poor for the sake of the poor? Displaced for the sake of the displaced? Or sad for the sake of those who weep? This Good Friday, will you incarnate into a crucified world?
Perhaps today you are one crucified. You yourself hang on a cross of a betrayed relationship, a cross of poverty, a cross of some profound injustice, or a cross of a loved one’s death. Remember, our God is a crucified God. God’s flesh is pierced like your flesh, his heart betrayed like yours. This Good Friday, God is with you in your suffering.
We may live in a crucified world, but we worship a crucified God. May that Divine solidarity give us all the courage to seek a brighter tomorrow, and the hope to wait for an Easter Sunday.