Monday, April 09, 2012

Face time with the Risen Christ

If you had been dead three days and then had been raised from the dead, who would you go show yourself to? Who would you want to know you were alive? Who would need to see the proof?

Jesus had some decisions to make upon being raised from the dead. He would walk the earth a few more weeks and then “ascend” to Heaven (as though Heaven we up there somewhere). One of the important decisions he had to make was who he would intentionally show himself to.

Pilate. Were I in Jesus’ sandals, I might be tempted to go to Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who had legal authority to approve of a crucifixion. Pilate was really wishy washy and gave in to the force of the mob in order to have Jesus killed by his own order. What might he do seeing that man he killed stand face to face? What might Pilate say? Could it be that all Pilate needed was to see Jesus once again? Would he believe differently then? Perhaps Jesus would have some new credibility in Rome and leverage the entire Roman empire for the sake of his mission. Why miss out on such a brief window of power?

But Jesus didn’t go to Pilate. Jesus never had much respect for the power of the Roman empire. He did not ever feel compelled to use any of its power for his mission on earth. In fact, although the power of Rome was vast in it reach and might, it failed to be the sort of power that would sustain the sort of movement Jesus was about. There is no military might, no geographical control, not economic power that is suitable to sustain the mission of Jesus. So Jesus had no motivation after his death to show himself to Pilate because at best there was going to be a divine, “I Told You So,” and frankly Jesus had better things to do.

Sanhedrin. If I were the resurrected Jesus I would have been tempted to go back to my own religious group and point out their errors and mistakes. I would have wanted show up in the religious gathering and shock them all. I would have looked the chief priest in the eye and asked him impossible questions. I would have wanted to rescue my own group.

But Jesus didn’t do this either. There was nothing there for him. Jesus knew that the Jewish religious system, the very system into which he was born (the one he initiated with Abraham), had become as corrupt as Roman politics. Each system had responded to his mission with murder – wouldn’t it just be more of the same response to the mission which had not changed in death?

No, Jesus had no time for Rome and no time for the Sanhedrin. They were not part of his mission before he was crucified and they were not part of his mission after he was crucified.

Friends. Instead of making his resurrected presence known with power political and religious leaders, Jesus went back to the nobodies he had been hanging out with for the past three years. He wanted his friends to know he was back. He knew that the people who believed in him and followed him, flawed a crew as it was, before he was crucified were going to be the people most likely to reproduce his subversive ways after he was raised. He also knew that they were the most likely to have nothing to lose. They had no split allegiances.

Had Jesus gone to appeal to the power of Rome, his success in his mission would not only have looked like Roman and taken on its power structures, it would have experienced the decline and fall of Rome and be done itself. Had Jesus gone to appeal to the power of the Jewish religious system, Christianity would never have been more then a Jewish sect.

Jesus did not come to bless the Jews only. He was not only the Messiah to the Jews, but to the entire world.

In short, Jesus couldn’t allow himself to think as small as Rome or as small as the Jewish religious system of the day. His vision was more grand than that of vast political and religious systems. His vision was something more enduring and powerful. Jesus started his mission with friendships.

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