Things have been, and are, moving so fast. Theologically, my belief systems have been changing at warp speed. So much deconstruction, then reconstruction…. Death, and Resurrection.
“Easter” (the process of death, burial and new life) has been occurring to me over and over for a few years now.
Yet, with that official season upon us again, I was recently reflecting how it is all different (again) this year. I just don’t see Easter the same way, and I find myself approaching it far differently as a result.
When you believe that what happened on the Cross was Jesus paying the price to a wrathful god, who – requiring “justice,” revenge, payment, blood and sacrifice – killed his perfect, innocent Son so that he wouldn’t have to do the same to us (if we will believe this and say the magic words of agreement)… then, Easter has a certain meaning. We celebrate Jesus “dying for our sins,” and the hope of His Resurrection. We think about what He went through on our behalf, to appease the “anger of god” and we are appalled at the gore of it all – and thankful that we’ve been “saved” from that, and from far worse – eternal hellfire. We encourage confessions of faith and the baptistry’s get a great workout during this time – because many are moved by the climactic collision of emotions in it all (fear and guilt on one hand, and a satisfaction of thankful exchange on the other).
But so much of that is dead to me now, and something else, new, has risen up to take its place.
When you start to see that God is Love, and that Love does not require or desire blood or sacrifice, but instead, mercy…
When you start to see that Love requires no price to be paid, no debt that is owed, and not even a decision of faith, but instead, has included all in reconciliation and is continually including all in experiencing and bringing to bear reconciliation through faith, and the restoration of all things…
When you start to see that it was not God who was killing His Son, but instead, it was us, it was me…
When you start to see that it was a confluence of Empire and religion (principalities and powers) that acted “the satan” (the accusing, scapegoating, violent mechanism) in killing the Innocent Victim…
When you start to see that, mystically and paradoxically, God used the principles of sacral violence (sacrifice) and economy of exchange – absorbing them and becoming them – in order to reveal the mockery of them, and to destroy them…
…now, Easter begins to mean something wholly different.
On the Cross, God in Christ epically portrayed and revealed the Ministry of the Kingdom that had been on display in Life through the Incarnation. (More on this in a bit).
False humanity (that which lives independently in thought and word and deed from God) was founded on false desire (Adam of Eve’s of the fruit which brought the lie of independence), rivalry and violence (Cain slaughtering Abel). This is the curse of the mind which sees itself at enmity with God. It is an unreality, yet an existence and sentence man needs “saving” from, less he cease to exist.
Reality came to earth in the form of a Human, who showed us what the real sense of being was – union with and in Divine. But, we did not recognize or receive Him, or His Example. And when He refused to be a “king” in the way we wanted and expected – a bloodthirsty, warring avenger who would liberate the chosen from the oppressors; creating, protecting and growing an Empire of “insiders” over and against those who were “out” – we killed Him. The false humanity and mindset required it. “Judgement” was necessary to assuage the internal tension, to make temporary peace, putting off self-destruction, and ensuring cohesion and the continuance of the community.
We killed Him because His Life and teachings were subversive to our expectations and false humanity. Power in weakness (power under through love and serving), making peace, mercy and forgiveness, enemy love and laying down one’s life were not the desired ingredients of rescue and freedom.
But they were, in fact, Rescue and Freedom (Salvation) themselves, in the form of a Man. We just didn’t, couldn’t, see it. So we put them (Him) through a shoddy trial – demanded blood, judgement and sacrifice – and nailed them (Him) to a wooden cross until they (He) bled out.
“But the blood of Christ speaks a better word than that of Abel.”
The real magic of Easter is not the grave, but the fact that the Slain One walked out of it. Rescue and Freedom, Salvation Himself, the Christ, was raised. He didn’t stay dead. Three days into the dopamine effect of having communal guilt and anger and violence transferred onto an innocent scapegoat, the community came face to face with the scapegoat Himself, in the form of the Lamb of God.
That Jesus was killed on a Cross is not all that remarkable, really. It had happened many times. That the Christ didn’t stay dead was remarkable. In this, most, if not all doubt about His claims in Life were removed. He was truly, Immanuel, God with us. (“And oh sh*t, we killed Him!”). It would have been widely expected that “God” (any god) would have retribution. In an eye for an eye culture, or a “you kill 7 of mine, I will kill 70 of yours!” mindset – the word of “Peace” from the Word of God was earth-shaking.
It still is.
The Incarnation and Life of Jesus was a Living Example of what it looked like to be present in and with, and to bring forth – the Peace of the Abba’s reign – He called it the Kingdom. Religion and rules, the Law, did not bring this Peace. Rome and man-made civilization (Pax Romana “the Peace of Rome”) did not bring it, either. The sacral systems of sacrifice, the building and maintaining of empirical power, and the coming to God by way of exchange or transactions didn’t offer Peace either.
Only Life in Union with the Divine, the Kingdom of God, was the Fountain of Peace. Jesus showed us this. But we still put our hope in horses and chariots and in keeping the Law and in the offering of sacrifices.
So, on the Cross, this Kingdom was announced and ushered in through the most catastrophic, yet conclusive of ways. Fallen man killed Authentic Man, God in flesh. “It is finished” was an announcement, once and for all, that the ways of man (desire apart from Love, rivalry, violence, war, Empire, religion and Law) had been “put to death,” – ironically, via their own use. They were forever and finally exposed as a mockery as avenues toward Peace. The depravity of humanity, and paradoxically, the hopeful blessedness of Humanity were simultaneously on display. On the one hand, man in bondage to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – and on the other hand, Man (Christ as the Example of all redeemed humanity) in glorious submission to the Tree of Life.
Metanoia (“repentance” or, changing of the mind) is a way of Life, the Way of following Jesus. This Easter, I am changing my thinking, and looking at it in a new way.
Instead of being thankful for Jesus “dying on the Cross for my sins,” I’m reflecting on the reality that He died on the Cross because of my sins. I’m listening to the Example of enemy love, non-violence and non-retribution. I’m considering how this Christ is now in all men, and how little mankind has learned from this example – as we continue to scapegoat each other, separate ourselves from one another, accuse one another, victimize one another, and murder one another in war and otherwise. I’m seeing how humanity remains in a state of the satanic, accusing mob – how we are putting each other on crosses every day – and continue to kill God in doing so.
But, I’m also rejoicing in the Reality of Resurrection. This Christ Life is drawing all things to Himself, and this will be “the end.” More and more each day are seeing the depths of the Cross, and the Word(s) from the Word of “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and “Shalom!” as the Ultimate Victory(s). Peace is reigning, and Peace will reign. It is an accomplished deal in the council of God. Real Humanity, the kind Jesus showed, can be trusted in and Lived from, here and now. By the Grace of Christ within, and by imitating His response to mankind’s ultimate violence upon Himself, we too make a mockery of that attempt at creating peace through violence. We too, reveal Real Peace, Shalom, by refusing violence, and more, forgiving in response to it. In doing so, the Christ “is coming,” again and again.
The message of Easter is not that God has sent His son as a perfect sacrifice, to pay a penalty that we could not pay, so that we may be made perfect in His sight (to one day be with Him and be saved from eternal damnation), once we believe in that gospel. No, the message of Easter is that mankind, in our defiance and ignorance, and reliance upon violence and scapegoating, killed the Gospel Himself, and yet, The Gospel (Trinity) pre, and eternally, forgave us of even that, and in doing so, graphically and brutally showed mankind how to Really Live, eternally United with Him, in His Shalom, when we follow in the same Way.
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