Postures

4/5/96
Good Friday
Jn. 19:1-37

When I was growing up, my parents would admonish me from time to time, “Watch your posture.” They were, of course talking about the alignment of my spine. The term, “posture” can also refer to one’s stance or attitude towards the world or towards life. Consider if you will, the postures of those present at the crucifixion. Pilate’s posture is that of “practicality.” He wants to eliminate the problem of this Jew from Nazareth. Pilate’s job is to do all he can to keep peace in his territory, to put down revolts, and to strike the right balance of reward and punishment in order to achieve stability in the region.

The posture of the priests, Sadduccees, and Pharisees is one of blind self-righteous indignation. They doggedly strive to hold together the center of their religious institution. Whatever threatens the institution of the temple, synagogue, or their religious system is totally intolerable. Constantly striving to maintain their religious community over against assimilation, syncretism and hostility, they have become self-righteous, judgmental, and scornful.

But not as scornful as the soldiers. They personify cynicism. Jesus is just another Jew to taunt, mock, and rob. Dealing with a hostile population, having to live by intimidation, working with death and destruction on a daily basis, cynicism must seem to them to be a totally justifiable posture.

For the victims, for Mary and Jesus’ relatives, for the disciples who must deal with Mary and the others, compassion mixed with grief is the posture which they maintain. The family is always the unit which bears the burden of suffering, and which is the most natural source of compassion.

At the foot of the cross, then, are four postures towards the Crucifixion: practicality, blind self-righteousness, cynicism, and compassion.

But wait, there is one other posture present, and that is the posture of the narrator. For he too is a witness to the event of the Crucifixion. At least that is what he says. His posture is that of expectant faith. He is able to see the narrative of the events and to see the event of the Crucifixion in a larger context. He constantly places it over against Isaiah’s expectation of a suffering servant and of a Messiah. The narrator articulates the faith of the people, the faith and expectations of the prophets and of those who have waited upon the Lord in psalms and in eschatological expectation. The writer does not just articulate the hope of Isaiah or of John the Baptist, the narrator articulates their trust in the loving kindness, in the faithfulness, of God. The author articulates that element in Judaism which embraced the full history of God’s journey with His people, but which also understood that God would, could, and does act now.

The author is not just reading back into the Crucifixion event the understanding of the later Christian community, (as the Jesus Seminar scholars point out), the narrator is also looking at the Crucifixion with the eyes of expectant faith Ü maintaining part of the vision of the prophets and of the psalmists and of the writers of the Old Testament (which the Jesus seminar scholars overlook). Hence the narrator of the Crucifixion event is able to see some of the ramifications of what is going on. He is able stand before the cross in the posture of faithful expectation. This is why he is later able to confess Jesus as Lord and to be an Evangelist.

Watch your posture. How do you approach life? Is your posture one of practicality, injured self-righteousness, cynicism, or compassion? They are not enough when it comes to dealing with the harsh realities of life. They are essentially postures of despair. Only faithful expectation can free you to be positive, healing, open, and creative.

I have done over 145 funerals. I have been present at the time of death many, many times. I have seen those who have taken the posture of practicality, of injured self-righteousness, of cynicism, and of compassion. Those positions are not enough. Where there has been triumph over sin and death there has been the posture of expectant faith. Death is not triumphant where there is faith in what God has done and in what God will do, not only in this world but in the next.

Tonight, consider your posture over against the event of the Crucifixion. For your posture will tell you how you stand over against life and over against death. Is your posture that of practicality (or stoicism), injured self-righteousness, or cynicism? Do you offer only compassion and love? Or do you join with the narrator of the Gospel in a posture of expectant faith? Such a posture, such a faith, looks beyond the past, the present, and into the future. It allows God to place you in a context, in a position, to see meaning and glory in the midst of sacrifice and the tough reality of life.

Watch your posture. Be open to the power of the Crucifixion, to the power of God, to the promise of the Resurrection. Amen.