When Jesus was on the cross and flanked by two common criminals, he never forgot the humanity of those next to him. They meant probably as much to him as the people on the ground, and his forgiveness probably transformed, or should have transformed, the people on the ground as it did the criminals.
In our current state of “distancing,” we may imagine Jesus’ urge to reach out and touch these people who were sharing his suffering, although deserved. He had no means of communicating with them, no internet, probably couldn’t even muster the strength to address them. But his agony, as a good, perfect person, probably touched them in ways they were not expecting.
I wonder who expired first. Did the thieves die on the cross, or were they cut down? They were probably not pierced by the centurion’s sword. Did they feel shame? Redemption? We know one thing they must have felt: they were distanced from their savior but felt together with Him in this trinity of suffering, and joined to him in ways they couldn’t imagine, whether they lived or died.
We’re profoundly influenced by this separation, even as we are not on a Cross, not up on a mount of suffering, maybe, hopefully, even with loved ones as we wait this out. But Christ couldn’t reach out and touch anyone on that mount, and must have wished he could touch, and be touched, in his agony.
May we have this image of separation, and the touching of Joseph of Arimethea and the women who encountered and touched Jesus from the grave, as we greet Easter. Separation is only days (maybe weeks) away from being resolved. And Jesus will touch our souls and our hearts in a way no physical separation could ever prevent.