I went to church on Good Friday. There’s something about the day and the season, about meditation, about sorrow and joy, death and rebirth. It’s always been one of my top – if not my top – holidays. Even for my advanced ADD, it helps to have a special frame and place where I can focus, if only for a few minutes at a time. Today, we were invited to sojourn and visit among artistic representations of the stations of the cross. And I could only make it to three of them before I was overloaded. One thought I had in particular centered around the station known as Jesus meeting the daughters of Jerusalem:
A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’
Luke 23:27-29 NIV
I think of the mothers in my community who have lost and continue to lose their children to the state violence of the Prison Industrial Complex. I think of how overfilled Cook County Jails is, of mothers grieving the loss of their children to a system that chews them up and spits them out as a means of maintaining a permanent underclass. Most of our incarcerated are political prisoners, like Jesus, and mothers grieve for their loved ones.
The incarnate was incarcerated, died the death of political prisoners. And what is prison if not death – if not a ripping from economic, familial, social, psychological, intellectual, communal life?
The sin that Jesus bore on the cross was not the sin of intentions and “impure thoughts”. It was the sin of the world – which is to say that what killed Jesus was Empire. Empire’s sins – of control, domination, abuse, purposeful poverty, incarceration – of throwing lives away and deeming entire populations worthless.
These are the reasons Jesus died. Christians picking up their crosses is not about piety. It is about identifying with the most oppressed and marginalized. This is the message of Good Friday through Holy Saturday.
And it drastically effects how we interpret Easter and afterwards as well.