The following is the text for my reflection during a service of 3 hours at the cross today. The theme is “approaching the cross”, and we start “from the outside looking in – the view from the edge (the crowd)”
Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:29)
We start our journey towards the cross at the edge, amongst the crowd, looking in. A bit like the crowd in our reading, we are faced with the temptation to pass by – in our case to get to the happy ending of Easter Sunday (not that it was all that happy at the time, incidentally, if you read the gospels carefully). Or perhaps just to pass by the crucifixion bit..
Maybe the fact of Jesus being crucified offends us or upsets us? God couldn’t come up with a better plan than the bloody and humiliating public execution of his son as a state criminal? How can this be the act of a God of love? Come to that how can a God who can’t even save himself save us? Best not to think about it too much. Much better just to pass on by and leave Jesus hanging there.
Or maybe Jesus being crucified scares us. The last thing a 1st Century Jew would want is to be associated with an insurrectionist – no shortage of wood for another cross. Far better to keep our heads down and stay in the crowd. Just keep quiet about knowing Jesus. Don’t want to stand out, don’t want to stick up for Jesus. What would our friends say? I could lose my job. I certainly don’t want to end up on a cross myself! No – safer to just pass on by and leave Jesus hanging there.
Or, frankly, perhaps we don’t really care that much? We’ve got a busy and full life, things to do. Need to get to market to buy supplies before the Sabbath. What’s another criminal strung up by the Romans? We have money, security, we can come to worship whenever we want to, do our duty, pay our tithe – what do we need a saviour for (especially one who gets himself killed)? Sure there was a lot of excitement about this Jesus, but I’ve got a job, a family, my parents need looking after, the garden needs weeding. I’m sorry – I haven’t got time to stay, I need to pass on by and leave Jesus hanging there.
Or just maybe we feel too ashamed, or unworthy. This is God we’re talking about, after all. Dying for me. I put him there through my sin and disobedience. How can I meet his eye, how can I watch him suffer? I know that it’s all alright in the end, so better just to pass on by, leave Jesus hanging there.
After all, it is not a pleasant place to linger, a crucifixion. How much less the crucifixion of our Lord and saviour. It is offensive and upsetting. It is scary. It is inconvenient and disruptive. It is a place of guilt and shame.
But linger we must, because the crucifixion is also an invitation. It is an invitation to wonder and awe. It is an invitation to having our hearts broken. It is an invitation to participate in God’s rescue plan for the whole of creation. It is an invitation to costly, self-giving, death-defeating love. In the upside down kingdom of God, slavery and death is an invitation to freedom and life.
And above all else it is an invitation to worship.
So my sisters and brothers, the invitation is to not pass by. Dare we linger? Dare we, for the next few hours, stay with Jesus, hanging on the cross? Dare we allow it to offend us, upset us, scare us, disrupt us, shame us? Dare we accept the invitation to worship and be changed?