In Luke’s Gospel, many women follow Jesus as he heads to Golgotha weeping and beating their breasts for him. Jesus turns to them and tells them not to weep for him but to weep for themselves. Things are on a worsening path, he tells them. And he asks them, “If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it’s dry?”
I’ve always heard these words to the women of Jerusalem as a reminder to us all that crucifixion won’t end with Jesus. We say that in Jesus’ death he took on the sin of the world. But he certainly didn’t end the sin of the world. Violence, suffering, and injustice are still with us. We all participate in these sins, they are a part of who we are and why we seek redemption. But violence, suffering, injustice, and crucifixion itself are also tools that the powerful use to remain in power.
Jesus’ words, “If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it’s dry?” remind me of the words of the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller explaining how he ended up in a Nazi concentration camp. He said, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Abandoned by the male disciples, it is the women who Jesus delivers this message to. As the labor activist Joe Hill wrote to a friend shortly before his execution, “Don’t mourn. Organize!”
This photograph was taken by Yevgeny Yerchak for the European Pressphoto Agency on September 8, 2020 in Minsk, Belarus. We see a group, mostly women, who have been separated from a larger protest by shadowy paramilitary law enforcement officials. The women had come out in demonstration against Alexander Lukashenko, known as “Europe’s last dictator,” after he claimed he had won 80% of the vote and a sixth term in office in the country’s presidential election. When I see their linked arms and when I see the look of resolve and fearlessness in their eyes, I think they must have heard Jesus’ words to the women of Jerusalem. And this is their response.
Let us pray:
Jesus, we live in a time surrounded by dry wood. Don’t let us mourn for too long. Send us into the parched world with the water of our faith. Amen.
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Jesus the Imagination
Thoughts and dreams, musings and meditations