“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested?” – Isaiah 53:7-9
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” – 1 Peter 2:23
This weekend is a festival to celebrate the historic events which are the basis of our hope. Today’s very name, Good Friday is the greatest expression of what it means to live in hope and not negativity. We re-tell Jesus’ story of the Cross and Empty Tomb to remember that our sin is dealt with, we’ve left the grave and we live in Resurrection hope. The very worst injustice – evil crashing down on the only fully innocent man. Death and darkness become the source of hope when God re-tells his story.
As a church we have fasted from negativity through Lent, committing ourselves to intentionally abstain from criticism, cynicism and blame. A key part of our fast from negativity has been to fast from blame. Blame is a means to defend ourselves, telling a story in which I am the victim and ‘they’ are evil.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes: ‘Nowadays, to win sympathy for your cause, you have to establish your credentials as a victim. This has overwhelming advantages. People empathise with your situation, give you support, and avoid criticising your actions. It has, however, three drawbacks: it is false, it is corrupting and it is a denial of humanity. A victim is an object, not a subject; a done-to, not a doer.’
We could call Jesus a victim. An innocent man was betrayed, falsely tried, lied about and executed. Yet he chose not to behave as a victim.
Amidst the many beautiful ways Jesus walked through the Easter story was that he never blamed anyone. He did not open his mouth, he did not protest, he didn’t lower himself to the identity of victim or defend himself by blaming others. The very nature of the cross was him taking on responsibility for humanity’s sin and rebellion against God, which is the very opposite of blame.
Blame is the first step of revenge, something which Jesus taught us not to do. He didn’t retaliate, he made no threats.
More from Rabbi Sacks:
“When bad things happen to an individual or group, one can either ask, ‘Who did this to me?’, or ‘Given that this has happened, what then shall I do?’…So different are these questions that they generate two modes of being: respectively a blame culture and a penitential culture. The first focusses on external cause, the second on internal response. Blame looks to the past, penitence to the future. Blame is passive, penitence active.”
This is the way Jesus lived, died and rose again.
It was tempting for Jesus to look to the past and blame those who did this to him. Jesus looked to the future at who he was doing this for.
It was tempting for Jesus make himself a victim, a passive object of evil. Jesus chose to be active, defeating evil and overcoming death.
Inspired by our saviour, we too can live free from blame, not just for lent but for life. When we see pain, mess, brokenness, we can live in penitence, taking responsibility for our part. Recognising that we contribute to that brokenness and knowing that, because of the cross, we can be forgiven and they are not the end of the story.