Today is Friday. Good Friday. The day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Today, we’re walking with Jesus to the cross.
An old spiritual asks the question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
The question is a form of anamnesis.
In Greek philosophy, anamnesis carries the idea that humans possess knowledge from past incarnations and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us. Plato (428BC – 424BC) develops the idea in his works “Meno” and “Phaedo.”
The word is used in the Greek New Testament to translate the words of Jesus at the Last Supper when he broke the bread and poured the wine, saying “Eat this, drink this, in remembrance of me.”
To anamnesis is not to simply recall something. It is to experience something.
“Were You There” is an anamnestic song that is meant to bring the past events of the cross into the present and, as a result, to change us.
The song did that for the African-American slaves who wrote/sang the song. The spiritual re-membered the suffering of Christ to the suffering of the African-American community.
Today, let’s re-member, re-experience the events surrounding the cross.
Were we there? Well, yes. Maybe we were there with:*
Judas who sold out because Jesus did not meet his political and military expectations. If it comes between Jesus and our nation’s political and military goals, what’s our choice?
The disciples who deserted Jesus when they realized that hanging with Jesus meant being rejected by the religious and political authorities. Maybe even jailed or killed!
The religious leaders who were out to get Jesus because he criticized the religious people and made friends with the irreligious. Jesus had the audacity to put people above religious and moral laws.
Pilate who let Jesus die even though he knew Jesus was innocent. We take the easy way out instead of standing against injustices.
The soldiers who played games while Jesus died. While we enjoy the good things of life, a fancy meal for instance, within a few blocks of most of us, hungry children go to bed at night.
Today, on “the way of the cross” maybe we realize that instead of walking with Jesus, we’ve been walking with someone else.
It’s ok. Jesus loves us anyway. That’s what the cross is all about.
The ultimate revelation of God.
The ultimate demonstration of God’s love.
The ultimate instruction of how to respond.
But, re-membering needs to lead to changing.
Lets change walking partners and start walking with Jesus.
*The references to the people surrounding the cross with whom we identify are taken from my old “Systematic Theology” textbook from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Christian Doctrine by Dr. Shirley Guthrie. That was way back in 1981! I’m amazed at how relevant his words and applications are.