And with him they crucified two robbers, one on the right, and the other on the left.
just to make it clear
by association’s rule
thief by thief
brigand by brigand
what is true of two
must be the case
of any third party
has worked from snakes on
we so enjoy a good fear
lynching solidifies community
burning crosses control neighbors
a place of skulls warns everyone
no deviation no multiplicity none
Visually this brings to mind the request of James and John to be at Jesus’ right and left hands when he is officially powerful. The question Jesus asked then was whether they were ready to actually do what it took to be in such positions, even if it were available to him to offer them.
That request was like stealing from the other Twelve. If the Jesus Way included excluding people, James and John would have been hung up right then.
This tableau is enough to scare a disciple into running away at the last minute. “There but for my fleet feet, hang I.”
Of course, there is a sense of discipleship grandiosity here, as the Romans were convinced that getting rid of the head of a movement would get rid of the rest of those who had tagged along until it got too hot for them—their revolutionary fervor dissipated.
Under normal circumstances, this would be true. It is still a mystery how the story of Jesus took on a life of its own and people held to his precepts in their daily life long enough for it to attract others. Given the multiplicity of communities of Jesus that eventually surfaced, there were undoubtedly uncounted traditions that grew and interacted. Some of these traditions had significant disagreements with one another over such issues as eating and circumcision. Sometimes resolutions could be reached (Jerusalem Council—Acts 15), sometimes not (also Acts 15).
It isn’t until the time of Constantine and the development of the sequence of Creeds that this vibrant energy was structurally constricted into one attempt at uniformity after another.
We are still trying to get a promise that our way will be a winning way and get on Jesus’ living right hand and left, rather than his dying right side and left.