In his life, Jesus was all about the neighbor. He expanded the term to not only refer to the person in proximity but to all people. If this were not enough, Jesus taught that we ought to extend extravagant care and compassion for the neighbor (see the case of "the good Samaritan"). Jesus showed this in a ministry of healing, uplifting, listening and feeding.
And in his death, Jesus was all about the neighbor. On the cross, Jesus has two neighbors-two literal neighbors-who bear the cross with him. They are thieves. One of the thieves pleads for Jesus to appeal to his power and preserve their lives. The other asks Jesus to remember him in the coming kingdom. Jesus promises his presence to this neighbor, even beyond the veil of death.
In life and in death, Jesus is with the neighbor.
The troubling thing about the cross is that Jesus' so-called "neighbors" hanged him on it. Those he sought to draw near and draw in, bound and beat him. Those he called into communion, exiled him to Golgotha. Those he called to life, delivered him to death. Turns out there is a cost to being neighborly. Jesus bore it.
Just as Jesus' definition of "the neighbor" was not definitive, so his care and compassion had no limits. On the cross, Jesus shows us that his inclusive and comprehensive love for all has a cost. Embracing and embodying his message will be costly for anyone who takes it seriously. But on Good Friday, this serious and somber day, we come to see that what Jesus bears is necessary. On this day, we face what Jesus did for his neighbors and must face the question, "what are we willing to do for our own?"
In life and death, Jesus binds himself to the neighbor.
Can we, will we do the same?