If the old adage is true, it is fitting that Good Friday falls on April 15, combining death and taxes.
Jesus broke the grip of both, but the empire didn't get it.
Trying to trap him in one, a strange bedfellow group of nervous leaders asked him about the
other: Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?
Jesus saw through their catch-22 and replied, Show me the coin used for the tax.
One of them reached into his pocket and pulled out a graven image.
Whose head is this, and whose title?
Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.
Since everyone is created in God's image, everyone belongs to God, and not to the emperor.
To prove otherwise, the empire reserves the right to impose that other certainty.
Today it happens: the empire rages against Jesus, hammering him into bloody, limp silence with unrestrained cruelty and fury, reaching the limit of what it can imagine or do.
So we call this Friday "Good" without expecting the empire to get it.
Years ago, there was another certainty.
If you went to a Major League baseball game, all the players were white.
That changed seventy-five years ago today when Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field, a Black man wearing Dodger blue.
He would be black and blue for many days to come as his body was attacked with fastballs and high spikes, and his family and soul were flogged with slurs, hate mail, death threats, and other ugly explosions of hatred, cruelty, and fury.
Today he is celebrated across the sport, and Jesus is worshiped across the world, but not until after the established reality raged against them, mercilessly punishing them both.
Jackie heroically broke baseball's color barrier.
Jesus broke even more.
The author of Ephesians explains:
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth...were...aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the
dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us ... that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death the hostility through it.
Jesus breaks the stranglehold of separation between people, between religions, between cultures.
Jesus breaks the barriers we erect and defend in fear of those who are different.
Jesus also breaks the cycle of violence; he absorbs unspeakable pain with forgiveness rather than retaliation and becomes our peace.
Jesus breaks the tyranny of death, entering it to gut it of its power from the inside, then later
living to tell about it.
Jesus shatters the dividing wall between heaven and human, the hostility and separation between God and those of us minted in God's image who regularly fail to recognize it in others or in ourselves as we persist with all the alienation, distance, destruction, death, and despair we call "sin."
Jesus breaks through the rigid, relentless barriers between human and human, between human and divine, between creator and creation.
He steps onto our playing field and pays dearly for it, and now the world will never be the same.
Now it must reckon with the presence and power of peace.
Now there is one humanity instead of two or more.
Now there is hope.
Now we have received what the empire can never and will never give.
Now our dollars and days are ruled by love, which the empire just doesn't get.
And what does Jesus have to say about the ruthless rule of force and fear?
It is finished.