As we continue our journey through Holy Week, our attempt to be faithful to Jesus in his hour of need, we need to ask: what prevents us from following him?
What drives us away from his presence? What keeps us from living up to our aspirations to love God and our neighbor with freedom and joy?
Shame shows up all over our texts today, and it turns out that shame is one of the deadliest barriers lying between us and faithfulness to Jesus.
Our Hebrew scripture lesson is the third of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah. Although this text can stand on its own with rich meaning, as Christians, we hear these verses in the voice of Jesus.
It describes the pain and indignity of what he will go through on Good Friday, and his willingness to endure it: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.”
Pulling out someone’s beard and spitting on their face are ways of imparting shame to someone. They demean and devalue the victim.
And most of what happens to Jesus on Friday is designed to enforce shame, all the way up to and including his death on the Cross.
Crucifixion is intended not just to kill someone efficiently—that could be done much faster by beheading them, as happened to John the Baptist.
Crucifixion is a slow, painful death in full view of the world, meant to be a spectacle showing everyone that the crucified person is a criminal and the dregs of society.
And the victim is robbed of all dignity or privacy.
As he slowly loses strength, he is reduced to animal pain, losing control over his body and his mind in full public view.
As with all shame processes, it robs the person of his or her identity, crushing him completely until he dies, no longer who he was or wanted to be.
Praise God, we will never have to go through something as terrible as crucifixion, although we must always remember our brothers and sisters around the world of all faiths who are persecuted for their beliefs.
But what the world did to Jesus on the Cross, killing him not just with violence but with shame, the world tries to do to us. Continue reading