Jesus was not executed because he offered thoughts and prayers to the poor, sick, marginalized and oppressed.
Jesus was executed because he turned the powerful and their systems upside down with his radical inclusion of the “other” and his courageous actions against tyranny.
More than any other recent Holy Week, I need to reflect upon the earthly reasons for the Lord’s execution on Good Friday. Why? For me, the world is growing darker by the moment with real live consequences on the line.
No longer are the spiritual traditions of my youth entirely sustaining my faith, as I witness the powerful gain more dominance, the wealthy acquire more riches, the armed purchase more weapons, the masses become less educated, the pious grow more certain of manifest destiny, and the divisions widen as each real-life conflict unfolds.
In other words, I need real “flesh and blood” reasons as I continue to follow Jesus in this world.
Now, I am hopeful, like my fellow Christians, that one day there will be a celestial home for us all. But until that day, I must find a “flesh and blood” purpose to live in this world as a Jesus-follower.
The day has come for those of us calling ourselves Jesus-followers to truly deny ourselves (which means looking beyond our own interests) and take up our crosses (the mission of radical inclusion and courageous actions for the “others”) with the hope of God’s will descending on earth as it is in heaven.
From the onset of his ministry, Jesus demonstrated that the old way of thinking about faith was misunderstood and misapplied.
From engaging the Samaritan woman at the well to teaching his disciples to love their enemies, Jesus turned the world of faith and politics on their ears.
While the nationalists and the pious wanted a military messiah to overthrow Roman control of Palestine, Jesus came to liberate the least of these within all of the worldly systems of politics, religion and culture.
Jesus came declaring to both Rome and Israel that the powerful and wealthy have corrupted this world and his Father had sent him to redeem them.
When Jesus began his ministry, he said as much. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18).
While the powerful thought this to be another bleeding heart Jewish orator, the reality was that Jesus set out to fulfill those exact words.
As he traveled from village to village, he embraced the marginalized, welcomed the ostracized, dined with the sinners, healed the untouchables, denounced the self-proclaimed piety of religious leaders and declared that God’s kingdom was open to all people.
These actions are what set into motion Jesus’ impending execution.
And this brings me to Good Friday 2018.
For too long now, Christians have been good with words while lacking in action. We are quick with thoughts and prayers, and equally quick to forget the pain and suffering of others when we become distracted by another crisis.
Thoughts and prayers are appropriate, but without actions they are nothing more than hollow words that echo in the ears of the oppressed.
What we need are thoughts, prayers and action when it comes to the most pressing issues of our day.
Thoughts, prayers and a clean DREAM Act.
Thoughts, prayers and sensible gun control that respects constitutional amendments.
Thoughts, prayers and a renewed support for public education, teachers and students.
Thoughts, prayers and an affirmation of LGBTQ Christians.
Thoughts, prayers and a just penal system that acknowledges systemic racism.
Thoughts, prayers and an economic system that perpetuates prosperity for all, not just the wealthy and powerful.
Thoughts, prayers and a political system unified by our commonalities and not defined by our defenses.
Thoughts, prayers and a new way to walk beside Jesus as a new witness in this world.
The time to couple words with actions is upon us. We need thoughts and prayers, but we need bold actions to follow suit.
This means Christians should take up their crosses and start marching. This means great sacrifices and difficult challenges lay ahead. This means we walk the way of Jesus, which leads us to Calvary and crucifixion.
The journey, however, while encountering death, does not end with death.
Sunday is coming! Resurrection is a reality!
Redemption of the people and our systems are what comes next.
Therefore, offer your thoughts and prayers this Good Friday, but when Monday rolls around, roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work.