Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Westchester, IL
The New York Stock Exchange is closed today because Jesus died on Good Friday. As far as I can tell, most everything else is open, including the Post Office and my bank. Sometimes irony is a subtle thing, and sometimes not.
Twenty years ago, I took this picture of Jesus crucified and wrapped in plastic. West of Chicago, a Catholic cemetery attracts a crowd during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday when the faithful kneel in prayer and, if able, touch one of the many crucifixes on display in hopes of receiving healing.
According to the gospel writers, nobody came to Jesus’ crucifixion hoping to receive a healing. Most came to ridicule and taunt the pathetic victim. “He saved others; let’s see if he can save himself! If you’re a king, come down from the cross! Saviours don’t get crucified!”
One of the ironies of the crucifixion is that the scoffers and mockers actually get it right. Unwittingly, they are the first witnesses to the ultimate expression of Jesus’ life and his approaching death. He didn’t save himself, come down from the cross, or call upon angels to send lightning bolts into the chests of his executioners.
What the bystanders saw and ultimately mocked was a life lived according to deep impulses that were other-directed. When I look at the life Jesus chose to live, I find at least ten of these holy impulses:
The path to greatness is achieved through descent.
Leaders don’t grasp power, they give it away.
Self-sacrifice is chosen over self-preservation.
Peacemakers seek reconciliation rather than revenge.
Prayer is offered for those who inflict harm.
Nonviolence is the posture of resistance.
True power absorbs pain in order to mock the oppressor.
Minority voices are protected rather than silenced.
Losing one’s life is not the ultimate loss.
A non-anxious presence conquers the chaos.
None of these impulses is easy to put into the rhythm of my daily living, and they’re nearly impossible to turn into a lifestyle. Though I might try, I usually fail. But today is Good Friday. It’s not business as usual at the NYSE. And Jesus did not save himself.