Jesus once said, “Just like Moses lifted up a snake in the wild so the people afflicted by a curse could be healed, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that all may come and live.” Or something like that.
Jesus talked a lot about his death, about what his disciples could expect to happen, and how it had to be this way. Most all of the time, the people he gave a word of his death to didn’t understand. I mean, how could they? Death is the final bell toll, the ultimate ending, the finished life. Why would a teacher, miracle worker, a messiah talk about dying? Isn’t that like a star athlete talking about losing? It just doesn’t make sense.
Hero’s don’t die. That’s not how the story goes. So when the hopes and dreams of the disciples of Jesus were crucified with their rabbi, I can only imagine the crushing weight of despair that fell on them all.
Mary is interesting to me though. She stayed at his feet. As Jesus hung dying, Mary was there weeping and listening. I wonder if anyone else heard all Christ’s final words? Mary did. She refused to leave the bone of her bone and the flesh of her flesh, her miracle baby, her son. Mother Mary stayed.
I wonder though, did she remember the ponderings of her heart from when the Shepard’s came to worship her babe, when the magi came to visit, when the prophets and prophetesses rejoiced that their eyes had finally beheld salvation and they spoke words of blessing and fortune over her infant? What about all the times before this day of darkness that her son had talked of his death? What did she think about all of this as she wept from her soul at the foot of the cross?
But how the hell does a man hanging from a tree, a cursed man, become a standard of salvation like the bronze serpent Moses rose up?
In hindsight, we think we understand. We believe we have this crucifixion understood. We have our atonement theories and our understanding of political maneuvering. But sitting in the darkness that descended on the land from Noon till three, no one understood the death of god. Maybe we would do well to take a step back from our answers and questions and sit in the dark for a while.
Sitting in the dark is living with our fears.
Sitting in the dark is taking the risk of losing all hope.
Sitting in the dark is uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable to be in light’s absence. It’s not what we were made for; we weren’t crafted for darkness, when our minds run wild and our fears are a mere breath away. Our eyes crave light, bright, shine. We want clarity and the ability to see. In the dark, we long and strain for the light.
But it’s good for us to remain in the long shadow of the cross. It’s good for us to stay where the sun is darkened as sackcloth, and the moon turns to blood. It’s good for us to sit in the dark because here we sit with Jesus.
Jesus was at the center of the darkness of Good Friday. Those who stayed with the women committed to remaining until the end, they all stayed with Jesus. Maybe it is that when we remain in the darkness, we remain with Jesus.
Jesus knew what the Son of Man must do: enter willingly and wholeheartedly into death. There was no question that as his feet turned towards Jerusalem, he was walking towards the tomb. Every step was intentional. Every step was purposeful. Every step was a step into the darkness of those hours before Jesus committed his spirit to the Father and breathed his last.
I don’t know if Jesus knew what was on the other side of the darkness. Maybe his divine sight could pierce through the veil of shadows and see the resurrection we all want to rush forward into, to skip the death, the pain, the dark. Maybe Jesus saw the other side and didn’t fear it.
I don’t think so though. Jesus was fully human, like you and I. We are scared of the dark. It’s where our fears play. It’s where the unknown lurks, where we have no control. Darkness is where we tend to live in this life. There is so much of it, from the long nights of winter to the evil of injustice to the death that claims us all. There is darkness around every corner. We pretend it’s not there.
Jesus doesn’t though. He hangs on the cross from noon till three, not giving up the ghost, not letting the maw of death swallow him, remaining this side of the veil for all to see. Jesus stays in that darkness that gathers over our land. He stays with those who stay with him, no matter how wrecked we are with grief, no matter how fearful we become, no matter how hurt we remain. Jesus stays in the pain, the grief, the disorientation, the darkness. Jesus stays.
Not for the sake of resurrection. Not because he knows the end of the story. Not because he can look at this all and understand salvation and atonement. Jesus stays on the cross, in the darkness, because that is where humanity is. We suffer. We hurt. We cry. We thirst.
Jesus stays with us because he identifies with us; he is one of us; he loves us.
Jesus spoke of death often so that we would know he knew the reality: none of us get out of here alive. Not even Christ. He intentionally put his feet on the path to the crucifixion so that we would know he will be cursed for our sake, to share in our suffering. Jesus was lifted up for all too see that we may come to him and know we are not alone.
So, stay in the darkness this weekend. Stay where Jesus is, where humanity lives, where solidarity and the giving of one to another happens. The truth is, we are all in darkness whether we admit it or not. So be honest. In this life that is lived between Noon and three, it’s ok to admit that darkness covers the land and we are terrified of what it means to see our hopes and dreams crucified on high for all to see.
Jesus admitted his fear in the garden of Gethsemane. He begged his beloved disciples to stay awake and pray with him. They couldn’t, and so alone in agony Jesus made a choice to remain in the dark with us because this is the way of the Father: to come into our place, our world, our tribe, our hearts, into the darkness we are shrouded in, and to become one of us until the very end. This is the way of love, not through darkness because resurrection is on the other side, but rather into the darkness because that is why humanity – the objects of love – exist, reside, dwell.
Jesus is lifted up as the suffering servant, the languishing lover, the one in the darkness calling humanity to himself that we would no longer be alone. It is together that we become something more than individuals wandering around in the wilderness of the darkness. Together we become something bright in the dark, something hope-filled, not because we know the resurrection is coming but because we know we aren’t alone.
That we may all be bound together by the cords of love is why Jesus remained bound to that tree, hanging for all to see, calling us all into the way of love together, that we all may know the love of another.
Jesus gave Mary to the disciple he loved, and gave the disciple he loved to Mother Mary. At the foot of the cross, we are given to each other as family, bound together by love and care and commission from the divine word. We are not alone. And that is the message in the heart of this darkness between Noon and three.
Stay here, for here you are loved.