Saturday, April 07, 2012

The End of the Story

It is Easter weekend and I figured that it was time for another post about something. We had a Tenebrae service last night, which was quiet and sombre as we reflected on the death of Jesus. The thought that went around in my head last night was the idea of Jesus embodying Israel.

I got this idea from a lecture series that Chris had given me done by N.T. Wright that went through the book of Romans. Wright repeatedly came back to this idea of Jesus being the embodiment of Israel. Israel was seen as from the Jewish perspective of the time to be the saviour of the world and they had failed because of their consistent turning away from God's law and were in exile. Even though they had been returned to their land, they still viewed themselves to be in exile because they were under the control of Rome. They were looking to be reconciled with God through a Messiah and get their political independence back and thus return to their ordained place as the salvation of the world.

The idea that I had never really heard before though was this idea that Jesus came to embody Israel and did what Israel was supposed to do but could not. He fulfilled the law and redeemed Israel and became the salvation of the world according to Christian theology.

The idea of Jesus being the embodiment of a whole society was an intriguing idea to me. Especially last night as I considered the idea of Israel rejecting Jesus and killing Jesus. I'll take a moment to also say, that the Roman Empire is more to blame for the death of Jesus and I am aware that there some of the anti-Jewish sentiment found in the Bible regarding Jesus may have been influenced by later generations when Rome took Christianity up as the religion of the empire. However, the rejection of Jesus by the Jews is still there.

What I find intriguing is this interesting metaphor found in the story. If Jesus embodies the high ideals of the nation of Israel and Israel is at least partly responsible for the death of Jesus, then it is like the nation of Israel being it's own enemy.

In the past, I have had a hard time understanding how does this story about a man dying two thousand years ago makes me free. This law that was put in place long after the creation of humanity needed to be fulfilled and so it was, but I am still guilty under a law that has been fulfilled before I was born and that the act of forgiveness goes forward to events not done yet? How can you forgive something that hasn't happened yet?

If someone came up to me and told me that I'm breaking the laws of hockey when I raise a stick above my shoulders and that I have been penalized and should sit out for two minutes, then I would tell you that the rules of hockey don't apply outside the game of hockey. That's how Old Testament law felt to me. And then to tell me that you would be willing to forgive me and if I just accept the Euro Hockey League as my only source of hockey, then I would wonder how any of that has to do with me. And if I did accept the Euro Hockey League's offer of forgiveness for breaking a law outside of it's time and place and you then ordained me as a full-fledged hockey player. That was a very strange analogy, but strangely, very fitting to my point.

My understanding of the story has changed and it rang true again for me. This story may not have as much to do with the law as it may seem. Yes, for the people of the time, it had everything to do with the law and the forgiveness of transgressions against the law. However, there is a more substantial story going forward. If Jesus embodied the Self of the nation of Israel, then one of Israel's biggest enemies was itself. The Self rejected the heroic version of the Self. The Self was one of the instruments that led to the very death of the Heroic Self because it refused to embrace him and his new law of ridiculous love.

As I have stated briefly before in a post, I do not believe that there is a Satan and even if there is one, he ultimately holds no power because we are the one who make the choices in our life. However, I will say that there is a devil that holds dominion over you. One that will continually lead you to usurp your actions. One that forces you to make decisions that you know your Heroic Self would not. One that makes you foolishly defiant to the face of God and will even kill the Son of God. If you know my writing by now, you know the answer is You. The heart-breaking realization that you are not what you want to be morally or otherwise because it is your Profane Self that holds you prisoner. It is your Profane Self that keeps the record of your sins and transgressions and failings as evidence that you cannot possibly be the Daughter or Son of God.

It is indeed the devil that holds us in hell and we are condemned there forever as long as we reject the story of Christ. We will continue to make our home in the grave and it will be the Christ-like nature that hold you there and it will be the longest Saturday in the grave.

Are you going to let the story end there? Many do. They will not rise above it and let the easy road of the pursuit of comfort to medicate, alleviate and suppress the pain of this mortal life. They may even lead just fine lives, but they may never address the thing that separates them from the Divine.

Or are you going to finish the story and to embrace Jesus as the saviour and redeemer, the embodiment of Israel who broke the hold of the grave and the chains of hell. He who lives evermore at the right hand of God the Father? The death of Jesus was also the death of the old religion of the letter of the law. However, the spirit of Jesus could not be kept down. He rose again to bring the spirit of the law of love.

I really love the beauty of the act of baptism. It admits that we are dead, but that with Christ, we rise back up out of the watery grave and now we carry on the mission of Christ. We go to the ends of the earth and make disciples and healing the sick of the heart and mind, bring the dead back to life and bring the kingdom of God. Our hearts should break for those in chains of the grave or hell. Maybe they're still trapped there because Christ has not freed them yet. So what are you waiting for?

We all realize that we fall short of the perfect ideals of God, but the hope of Christ and the hope of Easter is that we are not forced to stay in exile if we are willing to follow Jesus back to where we belong.

"I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.
Well, we're doing mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought to be a man in black."
- The title track from Johnny Cash's album "Man in Black"

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I like your contrast of the Heroic self vs. the Profane self. I'd be interested in hearing you articulate those a bit more.

I definitely agree with you that it really is about our own choice, not waiting for God to do something that we must do ourselves in making the choice to align with a profoundly different part of ourselves.

Keep moving forward in your understanding, as the world needs more people like yourself pushing into these new perspectives to make more space for those who will follow.