Today’s Bible reading

Read Matthew 27:32-56

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus faces shame on the cross

Jesus’ crucifixion is as emblematic of shame as it is of sin. Crucifixion was intended not only to execute victims but to simultaneously humiliate them. Before being crucified, victims were usually stripped naked. It is difficult to imagine a more humiliating event. There is reason to believe this was true for Jesus. But we find it virtually impossible to look upon his naked form, or even consider it, given how embarrassing it feels. Our own discomfort is revealed even in the way we represent it artistically. With few exceptions, depictions of this event usually portray Jesus’ loins covered with a cloth. This is not to argue in favor of a different way to portray Jesus’ crucifixion, but rather to point out that although we assent theologically to how Good Friday delivered us from shame as well as sin, actually permitting ourselves to be there on that Friday, being with a naked Jesus, is an entirely different matter altogether. But only to the degree that we take the time to image, sense and feel what it would have been like to be there can we answer yes to the question “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The point here is to emphasize that Jesus’ literal naked vulnerability is a testimony to us that he knows exactly what it is like to be us. To truly be with us Jesus—Immanuel—not only knows what it means to be vulnerable, he knows how painfully, frighteningly hard it is to live into it, given shame’s threat. He knows the agony of sweating blood, looking for a way—any way—to avoid being stripped naked, being seen for who he was and left alone to die. He does not require anything of us that he does not first do himself.

Suggestion for action

Let’s try an imagination prayer. Can you picture Jesus on the cross? This can be a difficult image for some to picture.  And it can feel like Christianity has over-emphasized this image at times in its history. In this moment try to go there however you can. Jesus’s crucifixion was an act of love, he faced shame and broke it. Maybe imagining being with Jesus facing shame can help you face it as well. Don’t forget the loving savior by your side.