“Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, Jesus breathed his last. – Luke 23:46 (NRSV)
I once walked into a church that I found viscerally revolting. Not because it didn’t serve God—the church’s heart was clear. But the spirit was heavy in this church. Every single image was of Jesus on the cross. In this tiny chapel in a tiny town in the Mexican province of Michoacán, there was more art than I could count.
Throughout the ages, churches have used art to tell the stories of the biblical narrative so that the people could know the Word. Even if they couldn’t read it.
But in this church, the only Word was the Cross.
I asked our guide, “Why did you bring us here?
She explained that, in this town, there were only women and children. For generations, when boys came of age to work, they would leave, migrating north, with the promise to send money back home. Everyone left but the women and the children. And everyone mourned while they lived.
And when they would enter their parish chapel—they saw the story of a God who knew their pain, intimately.
This church didn’t catapult from Good Friday to Easter. This church lived with its people on the verge of death.
On this Good Friday, I think we have to observe at the cross. Observe closely. Don’t look away. I think we have to look at the road to the cross. Stay with Jesus the whole way through. Stay the way. And you’ll notice: Those nails. That tree. That noose. The torches. The guns. But that’s not all you’ll notice.
Stay the way, and you’ll see the women who stuck with him. Stay the way, and you’ll see the most remarkable thing we can easily forget. Lynched on that tree, with the crown of thorns they’d put on his head, Jesus looked at them. And he said:
“Father. Forgive them. For they know not what they do.”
Show us the cross we need to see, O God. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.