by: J Rourke
The crucifixion doesn't make sense to me.
Well, it does, but not all of it. The story of Jesus’ death is a pretty cool revelation into transcending oppressive systems. I love the parts that prove we need no longer be shackled by empire, by religion, by social norms. But then there are the other parts, the parts about everlasting life, wrathful murder, necessary substitutionary atonement. I get hung up on those things. Why would God have to kill Jesus, or even worse, want to kill Jesus for me? Why does my wrongdoing mean Jesus has to die in my place? That seems pretty messed up to me. I won’t sing songs about that.
And that’s not even the whole story.
The crucifixion also includes murdered prophets. Empire killing peacemakers. Our silence in the face of injustice, silence that sometimes allows the righteous to die.
But my biggest hang up is the escapism. The sense that now isn’t enough. It’s what happens when we talk about heaven as if it’s a planet far away where everything is exactly the way we want it to be. I can invent planets like that. Imaginary palaces of pizza and books and beer and movies and jokes, but my fantasies always prove themselves contrived. And so would yours. I wonder what we are trying to escape: the present, or ourselves.
There’s more to this story than that. There’s got to be.
Jesus did die. Past tense. But what if it’s also present? What if it’s happening right now? To us. To me. What if Jesus is inviting me to die, to bear my own cross, to put to death the things in me that aren’t true?
It’s a reality in which the crucifixion is a treacherous cosmic place that anything can enter but only goodness can leave. A place one dies to enter. A place one is reborn to leave. And Jesus’ death is an invitation.
I’ve been there. More than once.
Many, many times have I followed Christ into death. I have killed dozens of false selves. I have put to death my certitude. I’ve been reborn a sojourner. I've learned truth. And empathy. And there is more. Every part of me might yet be beautiful. Hidden under fear, under anxiety, under rejection – my true self, resplendent, is waiting.
I sing “Nothing but the Blood” now, knowing Jesus isn't the only one to shed it. Being invited to embrace myself as I am is terrifying, costly. But there is no better road. I must die, that I may truly live. Here. And now.