On Good Friday many churches have a ‘Walk of Witness’, a procession of individuals who wish to show to their community what it means to them at this time of year. It’s odd seeing the line of people winding their way through the streets, all in silence, following a cross. 

Walk of Witness, the Cross carried by the folk from the Northern Lights Church

To many, seeing the cross is a distant memory from their past. Yes, the picture of the cross, seen below, reflecting the lights in the burnt out embers of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris may have evoked some memories but a simple wooden cross? What does to mean to people today?

Image from https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2019/april/must-see-notre-dame-cathedral-devastated-but-despite-the-inferno-prayers-rise-and-the-cross-remains

Today I was privileged to set out the Cross, that is to place onto the Cross the different symbols of the Crucifixion of Jesus. Oddly, after so many years of listening, being at such a service, this was the first time the significance came home so strongly.

The Cross at Todmorden Central Methodist Church : Credit: Ernest Rogan

The Palm branch was offered as we recalled that on Palm Sunday, with Jesus entering Jerusalem, crowds greeted him as they were celebrating the Jewish feast of the Dedication of the Temple. Their shouts of “Hosanna” helped to make the journey look like a victory parade. Did they know whom this person really was?

Jesus’ actions were not always popular. He spoke of God’s love and was critical of the things people did in the ‘name of religion’. He drove out the money changers in the Temple; and so we had a whip, laid on the top right of the cross horizontal.

What are our motives? Is it in the name of God or ‘religion’?

Judas Iscariot, it is said, betrayed Jesus to the authorities. There is much conjecture over the word betray as it tends to mean ‘hand over’. If you hand over something, you normally own that object before hand – did Judas own Jesus? Jesus appears to acknowledge that Judas was going to do this and shows no concern at the time he meets with the Jewish leaders. Was he actually meeting with them in accordance with Old Testament protocols? Nevertheless, the story is that Judas accepted 30 pieces of silver. Hence that is tied to the top left horizontal of the cross.

Jesus celebrated a meal with his friends, his disciples, and in that meal he used the bread and wine to symbolise his body and his blood. It was a metaphor for the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood, and as a way to recall, to remember this sacrifice. So we placed a plate and a chalice where his feet would have been nailed.

The trial of Jesus was one of political chess: pushing him from Herod to Pilate to Herod, each seeking to get something out of the ruling, not to upset the populace, for popularity is what we desire, yes? The crowd misinformed seek the release of Barabbas, colloquially the son of the Father – how odd. We add a palm cross, to show the irony of the crowds cheering his entry into Jerusalem just under a week ago, and now, all is silent in support of Jesus.

Are we silent too?

Jesus is brought with the cross to Golgotha, at a location we are unsure of today. It may not even be the traditional view of the burning rubbish heap. Wherever, it is not a site of importance to the authorities. He is to be discarded. The authorities, whether they be Jewish or Roman, mock him. A crown of thorns, makes us think of the real pain that Jesus must have felt. A purple robe reminds us of the mockery, for purple was a sign of regal power then. These are added to the cross.

Jesus is crucified. What a glib phrase. It was the standard way of punishment by the Romans, a way of ensuring a visual, and no doubt audible, legacy to the locals of who was in power and the ramifications of anyone didn’t want to follow their rulings. We have the nails and the hammer, probably a wooden mallet, at the foot the cross. We don’t hear the sound of them being driven into flesh.

There were two criminals on either side of Jesus. What would Jesus want to say to people who had committed a crime?From the Taize Community

Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Those from his followers looked on. I wonder how they may have felt? Shock, dismay, confused?

Wasn’t this man going to be the Messiah?

We read later that Nicodemus brought a huge amount of spices for the body, and the women were aware of exactly where the body was laid. There was such compassion. Hence we add a bowl and towel, to recall the preparation of the body.

Where does that leave us? Why did Jesus do this?

Was it that the authorities were unprepared for a political upstart, who could demonstrate such love for others in ways that they were incapable of understanding and replicating; someone whom spoke so knowledgable about their faith; someone who radically was capable of subverting all the power mentalities the authorities had set in place? What love was this that Jesus would die so that we could show such love towards others? That we could see others as wonderful creations of God, not in terms of hierarchy. That we could see others in terms of their need rather than our opportunities for advancement. That’s radical.

I see so much in the political world today where power is everything and people are not. Jesus didn’t die for the corporations to become prosperous but for the people to live life abundantly. It was real then, it is still applicable now. This ‘Walk of Witness’ today is a symbol of opportunity for us all to grasp the real meaning of love. This Easter – it’s still valid.

Is Easter relevant to you? Please why not respond – no details to identify you are stored here – we would love to know what you think. 
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