For much of my life Jesus life and death has been a profound mystery that has consumed me. How do I come to terms with the "why"? For much of my " church-life ", I really didn't have to wrestle with it. I was told "why". I had to believe the "why" I was handed, and if I believed...Jesus accepted me.
But after 40 or so years, I'm not sure if even Jesus accepts this " why " he had to die. A God, a father, a creator of all that exists that is so angry, that the only way he can reconcile himself to humanity is to give birth to an only child, make him a scapegoat and pour out his wrath, and punishment...to appease his thirst for vengeance and justice. This is supposed to be some kind of sick love story, he did this all out of love. Is this really what that last mysterious week of Jesus life was all about...a premeditated murder by a sociopath god who has deep relationship issues?
I think about the start of this last crazy week, Palm Sunday. From the east Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem, while crowds through robes creating a " red carpet " and wave branches, shouting, " Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
Echoing in Jesus mind must be the words of the prophet Zechariah, "Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey." ( Zech 9:9 )
Why? I keep asking myself why? A King, a Kingdom...a good King who will make all things right. Could salvation be much much bigger than Jesus taking our punishment, bearing my sin and yours...just so dear old dad might accept, and love us.
But even more mysterious, if we read one verse more Zechariah, the prophet says, " I've had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim, no more war horses in Jerusalem, no more swords and spears, bows and arrows. He will offer peace to the nations, a peaceful rule worldwide, from the four winds to the seven seas."
What is going on? This seems far beyond just personal sin, it seems almost political, global...it has the appearance of a protest march that involves " all " humanity. Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees...what else is going on in Jerusalem?
Across the city, if you listen close enough you can almost hear it...the thunder of hoofs hitting the ground, the rhythmic shuffle of feet, soldiers marching from the west. There is the sound of war drums, the snap of whips cracking the air. There is the clanking of steel and armour. There is the glimmer of shields and swords in the bright sunlight. This is the emperor, the roman army...it is Pilate's procession the embodiment of power, glory and violence...the empire that rules the world.
This really is much bigger than an innocent man on death row on a suicide mission willing to die for me...the real convicted, and guilty inmate. This really is cosmic...it will be a nuclear explosion beyond human imagination...it is the collision of two worlds.
On the one side you have a radical scandalous king revealing a kingdom amidst the powerless, the broken, the unloved, stumbling saints and sinners, the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the lame and the blind. It is a kingdom of non-violence, of love, and of grace. It is a kingdom of justice. It is this kingdom that moves humbly from the east.
The other side it is the power, wealth and might of a world empire. It is an empire of corruption. and oppression. It is an empire that consumes, and of greed. It will use the sword to maintain control. It will use war to spread it's propaganda, to own more of the world...to draw larger maps. There is no justice for all, it is a justice that is self serving...to protect those at the top. It is an empire that is concerned with wealth and power...more and more.
I really think Jesus death is about the collision of these two worlds, the Kingdom and the empire. It is in this collision that Jesus is murdered. But mysteriously resurrection happens...this powerless Kingdom can not be destroyed.
The big question for me is...how do I live in the midst of this collision, between Kingdom and empire? What will I resurrect with my life in the midst of the rubble around me? I wonder if the reality of what salvation is all about is found here?