The death of Jesus by Cameron Miller
who was not there,
did not know anyone who was there,
and who tells the story without authority
or the virtue of any credibility whatsoever.
This is the minority report
from a group that didn’t win history.
This is a dissenting opinion
from a justice who simply could not go along.
This is the between the lines story
that does not appear directly in the story
but is there like a shadow
or a negative
of what gets taken as the story.
Jesus did not have to die.
God was not the puppeteer pulling strings
to make it happen
in order to complete a grand plan
that involved the betrayal,
and agonizing death
All of that, all of it,
was the interpretation of Mark,
and then the delayed, successive iterations
of several other writers
who did not know Jesus
and were not there.
The writers were being writers –
they told the story that was given to them
and then they molded it
and colored it
and gave it breath with a particular intention or intentions.
That is what writers and believers do,
Pilate was not some innocent chump.
Pontus Pilate was not indecisive
or caught between a rock and hard place.
All of that business, all of it,
was the interpretation
of editors telling the story
to Roman citizens
who they wanted to have listen
Pontus Pilate, was in fact,
if the Roman history writers are to be believed,
a nasty tyrant
that was in a long succession
of failed administrators
of a region and a people
the Romans never actually subdued.
The trial before the Sanhedrin,
a money-grubbing Judas,
a parade on a donkey,
Peter in the courtyard denying Jesus three times
before the cock crowed twice…all, all of it,
literary devices –
each of them
with a purpose
fueling a larger narrative
with a point to be made.
The bleached bones
sticking out of history
tell us Jesus left Galilee,
went to Jerusalem,
and was executed.
The rest is interpretive narrative
turned into liturgy,
then hardened into literal history
by thousands upon thousands upon thousands
of re-tellings and enactments
and theological allegorizing.
What we know for sure
is that the re-telling of Jesus’ execution
is a self-interested narrative on our part, told and retold slant
with the emphasis on varying parts
that partisans within our tribe of Christians
care most about and want others to believe.
It is what we do, we humans.
We tell stories
in order to understand and make sense
out of things we generally do not understand
and that we cannot quite put together
in a way that allows us
to feel comfortable.
It does not make the story bad
In fact, this story,
and many of the most important stories
we tell and that survive through history,
hold truth if not facts.
In fact – in fact – we tell stories to hold onto truth.
Stories are rugged, durable vessels
of abiding truth.
Scriptures, in every language and culture,
are heavy laden with truth
and have carried those truths well
across time and space
too bloody to imagine.
Stories do not hold facts very well.
They are too interpretive.
The weave is not tight enough
in any story, to retain facts over time.
But truth –
that thin, vaporous
substance that opens our eyes
and infuses our hearts
and warms our skin –
is contained in stories
better than anything else we know.
So here is the truth I see
in the Good Friday story.
Again, it is a dissenting opinion
and comes to you from a nobody
who those in authority in our tribe
have granted very little, if any, credibility.
Jesus died because of us.
End of story.
No fickle crowds.
No one and nothing to blame
other than us –
as in human beings
It is an old story, older than Jesus.
When God comes to us
in any form that is not a golden calf,
we kill it.
God would have us build
the kingdom on earth
as it exists in heaven
and routinely offers us wisdom
for building it.
But we insist upon the kingdom
we have built on earth
as it is on earth.
We grow weary of prophets
who point out where we have gone wrong.
We chase them away,
and kill them if they do not go away.
That is the story.
We love to allegorize stories.
This part means this,
and this character represents this,
and that event corresponds to this.
It keeps us distracted
and it also is endlessly self-reverential.
But the Good Friday story,
if we allow,
It is a prime story
that can’t be broken down any further.
Jesus died because of us.
End of story.
We claim to want God.
We claim to need God.
We claim to love God.
But we want and love ourselves.
When God gets involved,
especially when it comes to building the kingdom,
we do what we do: kill the agents of God.
Now there is another story
that needs to be told –
it is the one that explains why we do this,
and maybe even how we can learn to stop ourselves.
But today is Good Friday
and it seems best to me
if we just stick with the Good Friday story
in order to remind ourselves
why Jesus died:
Because of us,
because that is what we do.
Well, like I said, that is just one man’s opinion
and one man’s story.
But I’m sticking with it.