"Welcome," he says, "to my kingdom, a kingdom in which there is ultimately only the hierarchy of mutual servitude, a kingdom in which we share the bread of life, both physical and spiritual, as friends covenanted to one another before the Father." The unity of covenanted fellowship is made possible by the humility of service.
Traditionally Good Friday is a day of fasting, prayer, and meditation. It is a time to think about our sins and the sacrifice for sin that Jesus has made, the sacrifice that marks him as Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah. Obviously this is a good day to reread and think about the story of Christ's suffering and crucifixion, his passion: Matthew 26:30-27:66, Mark 14:26-15:47, Luke 22:39-23:56, and John 18:1-19:42.
Perhaps our question for meditation should be "What has Christ done?" We are told that he died for our sins (Gal. 1:4), not just for we who are already his followers, but for the sins of all the world (1 Jn. 2:2). Meditating on that teaching, we might consider not only our personal sins, but our sins as a people: as Mormons, as another kind of Christian, as Americans, as some other nationality, as rich, as poor, as male, as female, as young, as old.
The word our can be understood in two ways, as a group of individuals considered individually or as a group of individuals considered as a group. We sin in both ways. Christians understand the sacrifices of the Old Covenant to anticipate the sacrifice of the New. We ought not to forget that the sacrifice for sin under the Old Covenant was not only for individual sin, but also for collective guilt (e.g., Lev. 4:13-21), for we are sometimes so focused on our individual sins and the hope for salvation from them that we selfishly overlook our communal sinfulness.
Among the possibilities, to me one stands out. I can think of nothing that I have done personally to contribute to the abysmal incarceration rate in the United States. Probably very few, if any, can say that they have personal responsibility for it. It is a product of a system that acts as if it were independent of any agent. Nevertheless, we have done it, imprisoned a higher percentage of our population than any other nation, nearly half for non-violent crimes, many for sentences much longer than can be justified, and a disproportionate number of them black or from other minorities.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.