Two blokes are walking along a country road and they slowly catch up with a third bloke. All three walk along together, as you do. The third chap tries to talk about the weather, he makes a comment or two about the crops, and finally he says, "You guys must be the most miserable blokes this side of Jerusalem. What's up? Has somebody died?"
And one of the others says, "Well, yes. Somebody did; our rabbi Jesus. 'We had thought he was the one to redeem Israel,' but they killed him, instead. It feels like the end of the world to us. And now we've got these women in our community, three days later, who are saying that they've seen him risen from the dead. We don't know what to think."
Of course, this is the story of the road to Emmaus. I reckon it is one of the central stories of Christianity. It holds together the fact that Jesus, the one everyone thought was going to solve all their problems, is dead. The one everyone's hopes were pinned upon was killed. He cannot have been the person they thought he was. Yet…
there is resurrection. We can't get over the story. He holds our attention despite the ridiculous notion that he was anything other than a failure, and he is anything other than dead. He keeps coming back and grabbing our imaginations. There is something about him that is alive.
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At the beginning of Luke, the Devil says "If you are the Son of God…" as he tempts Jesus and seeks to turn him away from God's call. (Luke 4) At his death the leaders of the people, the soldiers, and the criminals all scoff at Jesus: if you are the king of the Jews; are you not the Messiah; if he is the Messiah of God, his Chosen One… It is plain they are on the side of the devil. They are aligned with evil.
And they win…
But the first Christians present us with an even more ridiculous claim than resurrection: this loss and dying and ridicule on the Cross means Jesus was King and Messiah; this loss and dying and ridicule means he has triumphed.
Kings had absolute total brute power. They were the top of the heap. They controlled everything. And yet the Christians said that the one who died in shame between two criminals, a total failure, who lost everything, and was completely humiliated and hung on display naked for everybody to deride— they said He was the King; this dying proved it.
We could say that ever since that first Emmaus Road experience Christianity has been trying to make sense of the first Christians' insight and witness that Jesus Christ, humiliated on a cross, is the King.
- - -
You know that people sometimes have furious debates about whether resurrection really happens. There is a sense in which this is a minor claim of Christianity. Christianity claims that Jesus' dying, and the way of his dying, points to something fundamental about the nature of reality, and of the universe. The notion of resurrection so pales in comparison to this claim, that it is almost insignificant!
What we are saying as Christians is that the death of Jesus, and the way of his dying, which makes him King, reveals the essence of reality and of God. It turns everything we know about power and the nature of being human, upside down. Jesus' death shows us the true nature of the cosmos. The universe… all those swirling galaxies and vast light year distances… is not built on brute power. Resurrection...? Pfft…! small beer compared to this.
The essence of Christ's Kingship and power is his lack of power, his humiliation for the sake of justice, his being one with the ordinary people— even the criminals— in his living and dying.
This is his triumph.
It is his essence.
It shows us what God is like.
It shows us the true nature of power. God's power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
It shows us how the world really is.
Real success— real power— is to serve, and to be compassionate, not to have worldly power.
When we serve,
which means we suffer,
then we discover what it means to be human.
Then we become made in the image of God.
Then we are fully human and fulfill our potential.
Power— real power— has nothing to do with earthly success,
In being humiliated, falsely accused, and killed,
Jesus triumphs as a human being,
as an icon of God to us,
and as one who is divinized; that is
one who has become like God, as God wishes all humans to be;
one who has truly lived up to their creation in God's image.
Ultimate Godly power is not to control,
but to allow change and healing and wholeness by serving and setting free.
In Jesus' death and resurrection we see the apex of being human.
This is how to live.
This is the underlying reality of the universe, not the strong power of brute force and guns.
This is what scripture and the church teaches us. It is taught imperfectly because it is so contrary to our base animal instincts, but it is the message of the Cross. We struggle to accept it, even to glimpse it, because so much around us says that to win and be in control, is what will make us happy.
But do we want to sing in tune with the universe, or do we want to fight it every step of the way?
My only witness is that it is in serving God and giving that my life has begun to be meaningful and good. Amen.
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!
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