So they took Jesus; 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
John 19: 16b-18
Greetings my friends,
Today we observe the day that Christ was publicly shamed, ridiculed, tortured and put to death on a cross outside the holy city of Jerusalem.
We remember that in the culture in which Jesus lived, that there could be no greater shroud cast over a person than to be publicly shamed. In this world honor was a precious virtue, was considered a type of commodity. To be shamed brought disgrace not only upon the person who was being shamed, but also upon all who were part of that person’s family. Truly in the public shaming of Christ, those who attempted to bring shame to our Lord were also trying to bring shame to all who would follow Him. Including you and me.
The occupying Romans knew this truth about shame. They knew this truth and they viciously exploited this truth by conducting public crucifixions in order to shame the offender and any who might follow the offender.
Jesus, like us, knows what it means to be publicly shamed. Jesus knows what it feels like to be scorned by neighbors, ridiculed, mocked, and beaten.
As part of this evening’s Good Friday worship we will hear the “Solemn Reproaches” of our Lord. This is one of those reproaches:
“O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you? Answer me. I gave you a royal scepter, but you gave me a crown of thorns; I gave you the kingdom and crowned you with eternal life, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.”
Today, my thoughts and my prayers wonder, what else must be done for us all to stop willfully participating in public shaming?
As I carefully venture out of my house for our weekly grocery run or a walk in the park with Marley, I observe a great deal of public shaming, though it takes on different forms during the pandemic of 2020.
I’ve witnessed people being publicly shamed for wearing facemasks, and I’ve witnessed just as many people being publicly shamed for not wearing facemasks. I’ve seen people shamed for simply taking an item off a grocery shelf that someone else deemed wasn’t necessary. I’ve witnessed people being shamed trying to help someone pick up groceries that had fallen to the ground to be helpful to an elderly person. I’ve witnessed people try to bring shame on others for using various aspects of technology, i.e. Facebook or Zoom video conferencing, and I’ve witnessed people being shamed for not using such technologies.
Luther reminds us in his explanation of the 8th commandment that:
“We are to come to the defense of our neighbor, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”
A question for all of us to think about always, but particularly on this day is; what must our Lord do in order for us to stop attempting to bring shame to our sisters and brothers in Christ who are simply trying to live their life in the manner in which they deem appropriate?
Yes, we are called to lovingly rebuke and admonish one another. In these days that might take on the form of offering guidance to our neighbor on how we have been asked to live with one another, but not in a way that is designed to bring shame or disgrace or question the value of our neighbor. Yes, we must do our best to protect our neighbors and ourselves during this pandemic and that might take on the form of reminding our neighbor that this is a time for social distancing, but not in a way that is designed to make our neighbor feel inferior to us. Yes, we must each do what we consider appropriate in regards to technology and offer our own understanding of vulnerabilities of technology, but regardless of the individual choices made regarding the use of technology we must view each other in the “best possible light” and respect one another’s choices.
Today, especially today, our Lord draws near to us in our own fears, our own vulnerabilities, our own humanity. Jesus understands our weaknesses and comes near to us to bring a word of peace, a word of comfort, and a word of hope. Jesus reminds us that the shame and the sadness we feel on Friday will be turned to triumph and glory on Sunday!
May we all bear witness to the hope and the glory, the respect and the honor, that our Lord modelled for each of us in His pilgrimage to the cross of shame.
Trust God keep washing those hands and be at peace! Be at peace with God and be at peace with your neighbors.