Jesus said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
The Globe and Mail recently reported that Canadians who have already received the vaccine have ambivalent feelings about it. And it’s not about being anti-vaccination. It’s about realizing that individually having the vaccine does not change much in the way of social interactions. The land borders are still closed. Travel restrictions continue indefinitely. Wearing masks, limited access to public buildings, social distancing – these all continue.
We’re sad, even when we get the vaccine because the vaccine doesn’t wipe away all our losses. We still need to grieve.Why? Because we realize that the vaccine isn’t a silver bullet solution to dealing with the emotional, spiritual and physical pain in our lives today.
At the molecular level what is happening inside our body is significant when we get our vaccine, in building immunity against a deadly virus. But, outside of us, nothing really changes in the social, material world. “My frustration at this point is outweighing my happiness,” confessed someone who just got their first dose. “Because when I go outside, I’m still in a COVID world.”
Have we fooled ourselves into fantasizing that once we get the vaccine, everything at the snap of the fingers will be like it used to be? Here we touch on a truth, dare I say, a truth that reflects the way of Christ. And perhaps a way through the grief.
During the torturous hours leading to Jesus’ death on the cross, the Passion stories from the Gospels depict Jesus appearing before various authorities who stand in judgement over him: Judas who betrays him, the soldiers who arrest, beat and mock him, Peter who denies him, Caiaphus who questions him, Pilate who cross-examines him, the crowd who condemns him.
And in all these scenes, Jesus appears by himself. The disciples have abandoned him. It seems Jesus’ Passion revolves around just one individual.
But he is not alone. That’s the truth. Throughout his ordeal, Jesus appeals to God. The Gospel of John, especially, emphasizes how connected he is to God the Father through it all. Multiple times in the midst of his suffering, Jesus mentions the heavenly realm, and the kingdom of God to which he belongs. “Yet I am not alone,” Jesus says, “because the Father is with me.”
Even when Jesus cries, “O God why have you forsaken me?” he identifies with the words of the Psalmist, words that unite him to the expansive community of faith spanning centuries. Jesus identifies with his humanity in those words of grief, through which he connects our humanity to his, and to all the saints of every time and place.
We are not Jesus. I am not saying that because Jesus, Son of God, did this we also should, easily. I am not denying our own human limitations nor uniqueness. I am saying that we are in Christ, and therefore in his consciousness we too can appreciate the pattern of our own renewal and path to new life. That is, we don’t face our crisis alone. That our salvation is tied to a larger truth beyond our own individual perception.
On Reformation Sunday we often will read the words of Jesus from John’s Gospel: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
On Good Friday we confront the truth that we are not alone. No one is free until everyone is free. No one is safe until everyone is safe. The effects of COVID will not be subdued until eveyone is vaccinated.
The truth is, Jesus came to save all people. Not just the rich. Not just the privileged. Not just those who have political, social clout. Not only those who live in developed countries.
The truth is, Jesus came to save – using the Old Testament formula – “the stranger, the orphan, and the widow” which is code for the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable, the weak. The cross of Christ represents God’s love even for the enemy, those for whom you would not give the time of day.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…
Our existence, our living and our dying, is not an episodic, indivualistic event. We are connected all to one another. The virus, if anything, is certainly teaching us this truth. The virus knows no human-made divisions. And any one individual who wishes to engage the community at any level, won’t be ‘free’ until everyone is.
Because at the end of the day expressing grief is recognized in the presence of another. The act of grieving allows us to see beyond our own, private interests. The tears of loss make room to see and strengthen the bonds of mutual love that connect us to a larger community in the reign of God. While our grief is our own, our healing comes in expressing it in the presence of another.
The cross cannot be the cross unless both directions are bound together as one. The symbol of the cross reminds us that we are not only in an up-and-down/vertical relationship (“me and Jesus”), but in a side-to-side/horizontal relationship (“me and you”). May the truth of the cross of Christ fill our hearts today.
 John 18:37-38
 John 16:32
 Psalm 22:1
 John 8:31
 Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Psalm 94:6;146:9, Jeremiah 7:6;22:3, Zechariah 7:10
 John 3:16-17