After they had finished nailing him to the cross and were waiting for him to die, they whiled away the time by throwing dice for his clothes…From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly…“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Gospel of Matthew, c27, v45-46)
Christians believe that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the central point of human history. It is God Himself making it possible for those who believe in Jesus as God, who realize they need what He did for them in His death, and who accept Him as God of their lives to be transformed into sons and daughters of God.
The death of Jesus is of particular importance because it is there that Christians believe God took upon Himself the full weight of the sin of humanity and, in death, paid the price for it that we cannot fully pay.
There are many mysterious things about Jesus’ death. This is what strikes me today: the motionlessness and silence of it.
Jesus was nailed to the cross. He couldn’t move. It seems that throughout His life He moved at a deliberate pace toward being motionless. In the end, Jesus was nailed down and waited to die. He couldn’t have had one more meeting if He had wanted to. He couldn’t tweet the news moment by moment: “@SonofMan is thirsty on #thecross.” The few things He could have done He chose not to: calling down angels to save Himself or making sure we understood this as an object lesson.
He chose to be motionless and, as far as enlightening us further, silent. He had done what He came for and in the face of the ultimate injustice, humiliation, and taunting, was simply motionless and silent, content to allow this profound event of human history to occur in His stillness.
God, His Father, was also motionless and silent. God the Father did not act to save His Son. When Jesus cried out to Him, “Where are you?”, there was nothing but silence. God could have made a show of it, ensuring that we all understood what was happening; after all, God had used special effects to gain the attention of His people quite effectively throughout history: lightening, hail, fire, whirlwinds, earthquakes, cedar trees breaking…
But, in this moment, this most profound event in human history, God the Father was silent.
The event, it seems, required no exclamation point of motion or noise. This is in such contrast to our lives.
The event, it seems, required no exclamation point of motion or noise.
This is in such contrast to our lives.
We race around; multitasking is highly valued despite research showing that it decreases our performance. We ask each other, “What did you do today?” We measure our absolute and relative worth by our current performance and our past accomplishments–with emphasis on our current performance (“What have you done for me lately?”). We are always on the move. We are always trying to create, change, or fix something.
And we are always making noise. We have something to say and we want to be heard. We talk over each other in our zeal to be heard. We are free with our advice to another. Have you ever paused to take stock of the noise in the world? Perhaps, like attending a loud rock concert, we find today that our hearing is failing and what once was loud is now acceptable.
There are certainly times to act and times to speak. Aren’t there also times to be still and be quiet? Imagine facing an important moment in your life or a tremendous injustice to you and responding as Jesus did by being motionless and silent. Can we even conceive of that possibility anymore? How would our closest relationships be transformed if we dared to be occasionally motionless instead of always trying to fix, to be silent instead of trying to advise?
In our deepest pain, the fundamental loneliness and brokenness of the so-called human condition, we too often act out or shout out trying to relieve our pain instead of persevering, motionless and in silence. We hurry to alleviate the pain of others and miss the times when it is better to simple be with the other, motionless and silent.
To be motionless and silent when Jesus asks us, to persevere and suffer with Jesus in this way is the only path along which our character will be transformed into that of God’s.