Saturday, October 8, 2011

Retelling the Story 4

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. 

The 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. 

Pilate, 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 be executed. 

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.  

Although men 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.

I 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. 

Jesus' 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.

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Kerry,
    I'm just coming into your series and haven't had a chance to read it all, but I love your premise that people have twisted the Bible, sometimes into the opposite of what it meant. Have you ever read Jacques Ellul? He's a French theologian who wrote about the same thing. Your summary of Jesus' kingdom values is spot on. I'll continue to read your blog with interest. Thanks for visiting mine.

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  3. Hey, Michael! (& how did you know I visited??)
    I have heard the name of Jaques Ellul - think I came across a great quote by him somewhere... but know very little about him - might be one to put on the reading list!!

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  4. Kerry, You must have made a comment on my blog before I commented above. If you're serious about Ellul, read his The Subversion of Christianity. It blew me away and opened up a whole new world.

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  5. Oh dear!! I have no recollection of commenting prior to this post!! (I worry myself sometimes) - I thought perhaps you had some kind of url tracking thing going on!! Yes I would really like to read Ellul - his name keeps popping up. Will go hunt down that book on Amazon - Thank you!

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