Looking back at his ministry and through his death once again revisited this week – it leaves the burning question:
What DID Jesus do?
Did Jesus revive the Temple?
Did he strengthen the Synagogue?
Did he raise a bunch of Money?
Did he call for a deeper Biblicism?
Did he mandate the Tradition?
Did he send away the Gentiles?
Did he reinforce their Fears?
He was betrayed and abandoned by his friends. He was persecuted by the religious authority and tried by the state. He was tortured and executed as a criminal under the charge of treason.
If these questions are any indication of who Jesus is, what he did, and why he still matters; Jesus was nothing but a failure. Maybe he was just a lunatic; some crazy zealot with a God complex. Maybe he was just a prophet with a message that never stuck, co-opted by the religious people seeking to better control others. Maybe he was just charismatic inspirational leader who got on a role, then stretched beyond his reach until everything came crashing down around him. Whatever he was or is – Jesus upset the wrong people – until there was no choice. He would have to die. And as inspiring as he was (and maybe still is), that is the end of the story.
But we know a different end to this story.
As people who believe we understand that just when the story appeared to be over, the story really begins. Our faith hinges on the impossible – we believe Jesus is risen from the dead, and this changes everything. From the very beginning of that grave bursting open Jesus did the unthinkable – he sent (and still sends) the most unqualified people to share the news. He started with the women. Then he found his friends who ran away. He revealed himself to them, and sent them to bring good news everywhere. That is who we are – heralds of the coming kingdom – Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, dead and buried. Jesus entered and saved the world, defeating the powers of darkness. Jesus is risen from the dead and reigns as Lord of all.
So why then are we so worried?
We get worried because we’d rather work on the first set of questions. We are worried because we don’t believe it. We think we can control Jesus if he would simply fit into our neat religious or political categories. People have always thought that. It is the reason why we crucified him in the first place. Jesus is better to just be a memory than alive among us – after all…we have work to do.
Yet Holy Week invites us to consider an alternate perspective on the world.
We are invited to enter the story of Jesus again, so that his story becomes our story; his salvation becomes our salvation. We are welcomed with loving and forgiving arms stretched out for us in order to live its truth, the truth that Pilate could not see before his very eyes. We see Jesus beside us in our own suffering; we know that God joins us in the depths of our human experience, the weight of our guilt, the uncertainty brought onto us by our own failures, and as he meets us with the love that gives his life for us – we are called to share with others that in the mess of this broken world, there is good news, and the kingdom Jesus talked about so often is starting to unfold all around us, because he is risen from the dead.
Will sharing in this story bring questions? Of course.
Will it bring the same indignation Jesus received? It could.
Will we be able to change this broken world, by bringing news that its restoration is already underway? There is only one way to find out.
Like those women who were the first to arrive;
Like those first apostles sent into the world;
Like the church of every age;
Jesus sends us.
Our mission is not to build a stronger network; a better church; a growing generosity; a deeper knowledge; a wider understanding; a more diverse membership; a more welcoming atmosphere.
These things are important, critical even to our life together.
Yet our mission and calling is much simpler than that.
We are here to proclaim this truth in all we do:
“our Lord Jesus is risen from the dead.”
Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!
You know the rest of the story. It is being lived through you, questions and all.
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ “Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:4-8)