Contributor: Drew Jackson

And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him… {Luke 23:35}

Surrounding the cross of Christ on that Good Friday were two groups of people, scoffing enemies and silent bystanders. With the exception of Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple, everyone who attended the public lynching of Jesus found themselves in one of these two groups. When we look at the crucifixion from a theological perspective, we know that what took place was earth-shattering and universe-shaking: sin was dealt with once and for all, death was delivered a final death blow, access was granted into the presence of God, racism was stripped of its power. Yet what took place on a purely human level was an utter injustice. An innocent man was falsely accused and publicly executed. In the face of such grave injustice, the majority of people either loudly mocked or silently stood by.

To silently stand by in the face of injustice is no better than to actively oppress.

In his book The Trumpet of Conscience, Martin Luther King Jr. says these soul-piercing words:

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.[1]

The silence of bystanders and the desertion of disciples are part of what make up the dark side of the cross. When Jesus spoke words of forgiveness from the cross, he was not only speaking for the soldiers who nailed him to the cross or for the powers who plotted against him, but also for the silent majority who let it happen.

Racial injustice is an ever-present evil in our world, yet many of us have looked away from the cruel reality of it. We have stood silently at a distance and watched systemic oppression run its course. We have even gone so far as to deny the existence of such injustice.

Silence provides the fire of racial injustice with the oxygen it needs to keep burning.

As we reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus this Good Friday, let the horror of the scene move us out of silence and into solidarity. Do not neglect, on this day, to remember the crucified bodies of the oppressed of our world. When we do not acknowledge our brothers and sisters who suffer under the weight of oppression, the silence becomes even more deafening. May we, instead, be like the mother of Jesus, standing in solidarity with the pain of the crucified at the foot of the cross.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What causes us to remain silent in the face of racial injustice?

  1. How does the crucifixion of Jesus provide a pathway for us out of deadly silence?

[1] King Jr., Martin Luther (1967). The Trumpet of Conscience. Beacon Press: Boston