During the Season of Lent at Pangea Church (Seattle), we’ve been walking through a series called “Encounters by the Sea.”
The basic idea is that Jesus is the one who defeats evil.
Here’s a longer summary of the talks:
Much of the New Testament narrative of Jesus’ ministry takes place “by the water” – specifically by the Sea of Galilee. In the gospel of Mark especially, some of the most significant and astonishing events in Jesus’ ministry are on or by the Sea of Galilee.
During Lent we confront darkness, exile, abandonment, chaos and evil. In the biblical tradition, “the sea” is where evil does its worst. We all have “seas” within us that rage against our true humanity. Jesus came to tame the sea and to unleash a better way to exist in the world. Join us as we wield hope to confront the seas within us and those that engulf our world.
One of the things I am thinking about as we prepare for Palm Sunday and Holy Week is the way in which Jesus spends his ministry encountering the dark forces in this world.
The powers of evil provoke us to indulge the worst parts of ourselves. Theses same demons influence systems of power and oppression.
And to confront these, what does Jesus do?
Jesus rides an ass into the city, heralded as a messiah with the shouts of the people, where he will soon be executed in the nude.
Just when we think Jesus is finally going to flex his God-muscle a bit more, he decides to show us that the forces of evil can’t reckon with the greatest power in the universe: self-sacrificial love.
And that sounds fine and dandy, but where’s the Jesus who sent a legion of demons into a heard of pigs who committed mass suicide as a result (and notice that “legion” is a code word for the oppressive Roman machine)?
Where’s the Jesus who told the sea, when it was provoked by a storm, to shut up and calm down?
Where’s the Jesus who walked on top of the water as a demonstration of his Lordship and power over the evil forces of the abyss?
But apparently, the Jesus who commands demons is the same Jesus who will give them permission to do their worst to him.
The worst of human nature and the worst of human systems, in that singular moment come together to execute the Lord of glory.
And he lets them.
Now, if Paul is correct and Jesus really did “empty himself” (Phil. 2) and subject himself to death on a Roman cross, then in this moment we are seeing the ugliest evil of humanity exposed and the greatest potential of humanity amplified.
On the cross Jesus shows us just how ugly we can become if we let the demonic monsters, those wicked sea-beasts, consume us. Jesus also shows us the essence of love.
It is as though Jesus inhales the fumes of evil and exhales hope for us all.
We can be better.
We can be whole.
We can be human.
We can love.
Jesus shows us how to confront evil.
Jesus shows us how to be human, in the truest sense.
Jesus shows us what confounds the principalities and powers.
Jesus invites us to become human once again.
We too, as we inhale the stench of the dark monsters of systems, and those that seek to infect our soul…
…we can exhale in the most human way of all: love.
This is how God is and will finally conquer the sea once and for all.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Revelation 21.1 CEB)