What did he look like? What culture does he represent? Forget the nails, let me see the social coloring of his skin? Yes, I will accept him; he can come in now. Because Jesus has to be one of us. We have flipped the expectation and it does not matter our personal relationship with him. Instead, he has to be able to relate to us. He has to come over to our side. We surmise that Jesus can only be on our side or he is not Jesus.
But, what is the work, will and weight of skin? What does it prove? What of it can be thrown around after death? What can our flesh do to save us in dire circumstances or when given despairing news? When we die, do we not leave it here in the ground? Because there is something more, something deeper, something truer about being human and the fabric of flesh has nothing to do with it. While race animates our conversations, if we do not have the spirit, the breath of life, we cease to exist.
Still, we have attached Jesus’ sacred and spiritual work to the struggle for this or that. But, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is and was a cosmic battle. Jesus did not wrestle with flesh and blood but there were powers unseen, hidden forces for which we do not have the eyes to see. And he does not struggle with anything. “It is finished” (John 19.30).
Let us live, move and have our being from this truth, his truth (cf. Acts 17.28). Let this be our perspective and point of contact with the world. To be sure, the gospel mandates that we care for, comfort and have compassion for all people. But, when we suggest that God’s people are only our people, when we draw a circle our community, enact a boundary or border around our culture as protected and socially favored by God or say that they must look like us in order to receive our services, then we are preaching a different gospel.
There is a fine line here and we cross it when we suggest that the Son of God’s work is the same as ours. Because soon thereafter, he begins not only to bless those that we love but to curse those we hate. To be sure, only he died to save souls. This is a justice that we could not ever comprehend or contribute to. His work is eternal. As for us, our strivings and fighting will one day cease.
Worse still, we have coopted his cross and we carry on about what Jesus would have done, what Jesus would have said and where Jesus would have been– when we were not even there when they crucified our Lord. I have struggled in recent months to name my discomfort. I have been uneasy about the connections being made to Jesus. Somehow, Jesus’ footprints are all over the place these days and none of them lead to the cross. And we call him everything but the Son of God? How is that?
We have made Jesus’ body about our own. We preach the good news of our skin as if it really does something or has some eternal power in the universe and with God. The work of the cross is not a prop. We cannot use his bloodied hands to attack our enemies. Jesus died to save, to save our souls, to save our relationships, to save our connection, to save our community. And our flesh, this social construct of race had nothing to do with it.