- Jesus Falls the first time
When people are already beaten, already suffering, already beyond what is endurable and they are seeing in front of them still the long long road, uphill to more suffering and not even a friendly face in the crowd. Why do we sometimes feel disgust instead of pity for suffering people? We wih they would get out of our face. We wish we didn’t have to witness their indignity, as if we could catch it off them or something.
Or is it repressed guilt?
Or what about when it is me who falls? The problem with falling the first time is you realise how easily you can fall and how hard it is to get up again…and you see ahead of you many, many more falls and the aloneness of the struggle.
Is this why people sometimes give up? Jesus of course does not get the opportunity to give up, he is forced- whipped and threatened and kicked to get up and keep shuffling to doom and torment and death. This looks nothing at all like what we think of as “courage” or as “success”. Jesus in this scene is as much of a loser as we have ever been, and in the episodes of our lives where we can do nothing except shuffle along as someone forces us, or crumble under the weight are after all like Jesus.
Small comfort though because it hurts to be like Jesus.
Over the centuries we have put this burden on Jesus that he is carrying the whole weight of the world, that he is carrying our sins (there is that link to Julian of Norwich’s idea that Jesus is like a mother again). Perhaps Jesus does not want or need to carry everything for us. Perhaps it is not very helpful theology to put that on him so that we can avoid examining the sins of our society in too much detail.
Does the falling Jesus feel he has let everybody down?
Do we let “the least of his sisters” feel the humiliation and pain that we believe we would not have heaped on Jesus, himself?
They ought to stop blaming him, hitting him, forcing him. Someone ought to help him. Someone ought to rescue him. Someone ought to protest against this huge injustice.
But we are all too cowardly and aware of our own limitations.
So Jesus still falls.
Dear One, Jesus,
A few days ago I saw a three year old fall from a pile of blocks she had climbed on. She showed me her scraped knee, her grazed hand and she asked me to hold her and make it right.
“Falling is part of life” I told her and she looked at me and kept crying.
“It hurts doesn’t it” I said and she burrowed into my arms for comfort.
But no one comforted you, and your falling was not a natural part of life, it was something that the injustice of others caused to happen. It was something we should have prevented. It was something that still happens.
What would it have taken the first time you fell for it to be the last time you fell? What could people have done better?
How do I confront suffering and falling in others? What can I do? How can I respond?
Jesus, I am inadequate. I do nothing but weep.
- Jesus is stripped
Like the soldiers who gambled for Jesus’ clothing, we profit from the misfortunes of others. We in a competitive, capitalist economy. We in the “developed” world. We the privileged.
We protect our borders by locking out the hopes and security of refugees. We choose the cheapest items, the best schools, the flashiest cars and stuff the fact that the environment or other people have to go without. It’s not our fault, we are not the powerful ones.
The soldiers, the foot soldiers. People doing an honest day’s work. They may well have had mouths to feed at home. They did the job that was available, they were soldiers, possibly underpaid. Part of the deal was getting the clothing of the “criminals” they helped execute.
Jesus however was left stripped, naked, humiliated and uncomfortable (well he was dying anyway so you can rationalise it can’t you?). He becomes a non-person in the system- just a set of procedures, just part of the job the soldiers have to do.
They didn’t make the rules.
Can you imagine what chaos the Roman Empire would have been in if no one enforced the rules? It wasn’t the soldiers’ job to find Jesus innocent or guilty.
And by this stage he is not even really a human any more. He has been “processed” he hangs between life and death, there is no remedy. There is no redemption possible.
So they may as well cast dice don’t you think?
And we may as well continue shopping and complaining about the cricket while the environment hangs on the cross of our over-consumption and while the refugees suffer dehumanisation and lack of hope.
There is no alternative. There is nothing we can do against a system so much bigger than us.
Even God has abandoned him.
I see you. I want to rehumanise you.
I cannot see the hope in his situation but I would cover you if I could. Even that!
Jesus, the small things I can do for people- the donation of money to a beggar, the meal cooked for a depressed friend, the non-judgemental smile for someone who feels cast out. Small acts of wishing I could take you down from the cross and let you choose from all my clothes.
I feel so powerless. I am complicit in evil systems. I benefit from unjust economics. I can’t find the answers to how we should live or what we should do to end this suffering.
Jesus remind me to seek integrity in all my life…not to give consent to systems that take away more and more and more from those already suffering.
Jesus, they never stripped away your goodness and your truth. Who we are goes deeper than trappings. Teach me to be filled with your truth to my core, to be more than my place in society.
Let us restore hope.
I really struggled to get into the spirit of Good Friday today, and I really struggled to write something. I was too exhausted to make it to church, I could possibly have worked harder to get my body there but I felt I would not contribute anything (perhaps I ought to have tried).
Loving God, forgive me for being off-task. I long for hope and it seems impossible, and yet my immediate situation is alright. Perhaps I feel guilty not to be suffering more. Perhaps I have worn myself out with all the wrong things.
Today I am not like the faithful women at the foot of the cross, I am like the denying and cowardly disciples. I have run away. But even those ones, you continued to love and call.
I will do better when I can.