The Death of a Righteous Man
The human body is at once one of the most durable, and one of the most fragile of things. As a pastor, I am continually astounded by the resilience of people's bodies as they make their way through life. Children are able to recover from the most traumatic of injuries. I once saw a toddler, in recovery from a car accident in which a portion of his skull was crushed, recover completely after that portion of fractured skull was removed, stored in his abdomen and then restored with surgery. I watched in awe as a woman who had been clinically dead for an unspecified period of time go through forced cooling and hypothermia in order to protect brain function...and only wound up losing some of her memory and sense of balance. I have seen, again and again, people experience a stroke who have then been restored to nearly 100% recovery after only a short period of time. I have also sat with families after apparently healthy people have died after an unexpected heart attack. I have prayed with people who have lost friends and family members to accidents. One minute they are they, and the next they are gone. I have buried infants who have simply stopped breathing. I have prayed with people as they have given thanks for dramatic recoveries, and I have wept with those who are struggling to come to grips with traumatic loss.
All of that finds context in the death of Jesus. As the Christ hangs on the cross, his suffering and the horror of his public execution reminds us that if God the incarnate fully inhabits that terrible moment, can God be far from us when we pass through our own terrors. The loss, the pain, the awful way his passage from life to death is accomplished means that "God with us" is not just about the good times. God is with us from the heights of joy to the depths of loss and despair. God, in Christ, knows our pain. God knows it, and us, inside and out.
Jesus' death on the cross is more than just the death of a righteous man. It is more than just the loss of an innocent. It is an apparent realization that no matter how bad it gets, God is still with us. That is paramount, the ultimate gift to us in the fulfillment of incarnation on God's part. We no longer have to lift up our eyes to the hills and look for God's help. We no longer have to wait on God to appear on that day to set things right. God is with us...to share our joy in recovery...to take on our pain in loss. God is with us, even as we take our turn today and bear witness to the death of Jesus. In his moment, we find our own...and that we are not and never will be alone.