In the Passion narratives I’ve never been that interested in what comes after the crucifixion. I know that some say the whole ball of wax hinges on the stories of Jesus as the resurrected Christ.
They say it’s all one thing, the suffering, shaming, crucifixion, resurrection, and later appearances. You can’t lose the end parts without changing the meaning of the whole thing.
And that’s my point.
When I look at it, all I see is a beautifully complicated presentation of how to accomplish authentic communion with God being dumbed down into a fairy tale in which a blood sacrifice proves to be the only and necessary path to redemption. It feels to me like an exaltation of violence.
Of course we want to make the nullification of death the point. Because we as a species have been fixated on finding some way around death for a very long time.
Of course we want to find some way around the fact that politics and privilege killed Jesus. We want to find some way to make the story transcend that utterly ordinary scenario. Who cares about another visionary who so terrifies those in power that they resort to murder? That’s a movie, not a basis for a religion.
So, I don’t know, it just sounds ridiculously predictable, that something with some sizzle got tagged on the end of Jesus’s life to sell it. What better to settle on than an ending that soothes everyone’s greatest fear, and gives our grasping egos assurance of our permanence and importance?
I understand that many people will say it’s not Christianity without the resurrection and all that goes along with it. And that’s okay, I’m happy to surrender the word to those who insist. I’ve had my troubles with it for a long time.
But I’m not going to surrender my Jesus.
Because everything that comes before the empty tomb? That’s what I’m interested in. That’s what I find remarkable and compelling. A man walking around in Patriarchy Central talking about radical acceptance, non-violence, love of neighbor, and deeply undercutting the exchange paradigm. Someone courageous enough to say what needs to be said even though it will certainly antagonize those in power to a point well beyond dangerous. I’m interested in a guy who calls God “Abba.” I’m interested in a man who will walk calmly toward a horrible death to remain true to his vision of what God wants from his life.
That’s what interests me. That’s what gets under my skin and makes me furrow my brow and shake my head. That’s what gives me hope and scares the hell out of me.
It’s just not that interesting to think there was a being here, utterly different from me and you, who could stir things up, say and do profound things, pissing people off in the process, and rise from the dead after he was murdered.
But it is life-changing that The Word became flesh, flesh like our flesh, and walked around here just like we are doing, and found a way to be courageous and outrageous while facing the same limitations of body and mind that we face.
I don’t need a Jesus who knew everything that was going to happen to him. I need a Jesus who can teach me how to move confidently into the face of an utterly unknown future.
I don’t need a Jesus who is on the cross knowing that he’s going to be walking around on the earth unmolested, healed, and free in a couple days. I need a Jesus who knows only one moment of suffering after another, to teach me how to abide the panic of my own.
I don’t need a Jesus who sings me songs of triumph over death.
I need a Jesus who sings me melancholy spirituals about courageously facing the suffering of life.
I am wading deep waters tryin’ to get home.
Lord, I am wading deep waters tryin’ to get home.
I am wading deep waters, wading deep waters,
Wading deep waters trying to get home…
Unfamiliar with the spiritual “Wading Deep Waters”? Check out Crooked Still’s excellent rendition available on iTunes.