If you're just jumping into this, I've been slowly retelling the story of the Bible. Why? Well, because I think we have twisted it, and used it to say (in many ways) the absolute opposite of what it actually shows. You may not agree... but see how it strikes you!
See the beginning of the story here.
Some more thoughts on the message of the Old Testament story and the law here in Part 2
The beginning of the Jesus bit, here in Part 3
And we take up our story, now that Jesus has made the religious authorities angry enough to murder him, Here:
In a move that exposed the motives of the religious elite
for what they truly were, the Jewish religious leaders conspired with
the oppressive Roman rulers, to have God executed. Money changed hands.
Jesus was handed over, and the public was manipulated so that a
notorious murderer was freed and Jesus, who had stood in every way for
life and freedom, was condemned to die a murderer's death.
Jesus lived his death in exactly the same way he had lived his life. No force. No retaliation. To
those who came to mock and condemn, as well as those who came to grieve or to worship, he gave the freedom to follow their own choice, or to change. Even as he suffered, he healed and forgave. If it's true that it is only under pressure that we see what we are truly made of; Jesus showed under pressure that in every fibre of his being he was Love.
story of Jesus' arrest and trial has some interesting details. If you
think that a bunch of sour religious types and a few soldiers wouldn't
be enough to capture and destroy God - you are right. His arrest was...
surreal. A friend chose to betray him - yet Jesus seemingly gave
permission for this to happen (now that must've confused Judas!). During the fiasco, he confirmed who he
was, and the mere power of those words knocked the soldiers to the
ground. A man's ear was sliced off with a sword, before Jesus put an
authoritative stop to the violence as his disciples began to defend
him (they obviously still didn't "get" it!!). Jesus restored the ear. The soldiers regained their footing, and
Jesus went willingly with them. At every step, it was clear that those
who thought to take power and force their will on the quiet revolution
Jesus had begun, were not the ones in control.
the Roman governor whose task it was to examine Jesus and pronounce him
guilty, could find no guilt in him and said so. Yet he bowed to the
system of oppression that demanded Jesus' death, and handed him over to
God in human form, who had already
demonstrated with every mortal breath his willingness to cross the
divide between himself and humanity, allowed himself to be stripped
naked, tortured and humiliated, without reproach or retaliation. He was
beaten, spat on, abused and mocked. He allowed the worst abuses of the
religious and political system, the cruellest and most degraded actions
of men, to fall upon himself. He took the worst we could give, and
continued to love. As he hung naked and dying on a Roman cross, he forgave
his murderers. To those who saw him as a political manipulator, he
showed himself empty of agenda. To those who saw him as Judge, he
showed himself empty of condemnation. To those who saw him as one
requiring sacrifice and appeasement, he offered himself as the
sacrifice, and paid the ultimate price to appease whatever twisted price
WE might put on restoration. In his life and by his death, He
demonstrated the true nature of God. His actions silenced all
measurements of "good" and "evil", demonstrating instead that he was
willing to go to any length to restore relationship. Nothing we
considered morally or legalistically "good" could shine in the face of
such utter abandonment to love. Nothing we considered "sinful" or
"evil" in the actions of men could be beyond its reach.
tried to kill him, he gave up his own spirit. At that moment the sun
was darkened, and the temple curtain - a thick felt barrier that
separated the populace from the formidable presence of God - was torn in
two from top to bottom. God had smashed the barriers, and torn down
the divide that mankind had placed between themselves and Him.
wonder if, at this point, the Jewish leaders and the forces of
oppression thought they had won. I have a feeling although they were
reassuring themselves he was dead and no longer a threat, that they were
still feeling jittery. After all, his execution had somehow managed to
demonstrate his innocence all the more, and to expose their own shadowy
motives far more than they liked to admit.
followers were gutted. They had believed he was the Messiah, sent by
God to liberate Jerusalem. Now he was dead. Numb with grief and
disbelief, they laid his body in a tomb and basically went into hiding.
However, this was not the end of the story. The
religious authorities had failed to recognise God. They thought they
were disposing of a trouble-maker and restoring the status quo. They
did not realise it is impossible to kill love. In an event that showed
the hollowness of the system of "right and wrong", and the futilitiy of
retaliation and retribution, God overcame the last enemy of all; the
final and most feared fate of mankind. He defeated death. On the third
day after his burial, his body was discovered "missing".
He appeared first to some of the women who had faithfully followed him,
then to his disciples, and later to several hundred people. The
"troublemaker" had changed the status quo forever. The controlling
religious system had been shown for what it was. The perceived barriers
between people and the Creator God had been shown for what they were.
And GOD, had been revealed for who HE truly was. Loving enough to pay
any price, reaching through man's insistence on "law" to touch and
caress who WE really are; warts, misunderstandings, dirt, brokenness
included. In the act of dying he had shown himself as the most willing
of lovers and humankind, twisted and marred as we might be, as the
most valuable beloved.
Jesus never directly challenged systems of injustice. He never ran for office, or sought an official religious position. He simply revealed his own identity, and showed us our own value, and who we were free to be. In doing this he showed the way to wholeness
and restoration. In short, he brought liberation, release, and the
Kingdom of God to the world.
Some further reading:
My friend Jeff Elkins has retold some of the same story (I understand he's also working on more) here.
And Derek Flood has put together a truly brilliant series of articles that really highlight the difference between religion and relationship, and explore the meaning of the life and death of Jesus here.