Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Stark, Hopeless Reality of the Crucifixion

From N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope" (pg. 40)

The crucifixion of Jesus was the end of all their hopes. Nobody dreamed of saying, "Oh, that's all right-- he'll be back again in a few days." Nor did anybody say, "Well, at least he's now in Heaven with God." They were not looking for that sort of kingdom. After all, Jesus himself had taught them to pray that God's kingdom would come "on earth as in heaven." What they said -- and again this has the ring of first-century truth -- was, "We had hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21), with the implication, "but they crucified him, so he can't have been." The cross, we note, already had a symbolic meaning throughout the Roman world, long before it had a new one for the Christians. It meant: we Romans run this place, and if you get in our way we'll obliterate you -- and do it pretty nastily too. Crucifixion meant that the kingdom hadn't come, not that it had. Crucifixion of a would-be Messiah meant that he wasn't the Messiah, not that he was. When Jesus was crucified, every single disciple knew what it meant: we backed the wrong horse. The game is over. Whatever their expectations, and however Jesus had been trying to redefine those expectations, as far as they were concerned hope had crumbled into ashes. They knew they were lucky to escape with their own lives.


(and then from pg. 50)

We find the development of the very early belief that Jesus is Lord and that therefore Caesar is not. [...] Already in Paul the resurrection, both of Jesus and then in the future of his people, is the foundation of the Christian stance of allegiance to a different king, a different Lord. Death is the last weapon of the tyrant.
[...]
Resurrection is not the re-description of death; it is its overthrow and, with that, the overthrow of those whose power depends on it.

6 comments:

Jonathan Storment said...

I love this. N.T. Wright is such a stud! I love the ideal that the resurrection is the way that God kills tyranny itself. How do you think this should change the way that Christians think of terrorism?

III said...

The logic of resurrection certainly doesn't translate neatly into how our leaders in positions of power would seek to serve and protect us.

Since you asked the question, I suspect you may have your thumb on an answer. So how do YOU think this should change the way that Christians think of terrorism? ;)

Joey T said...

Colossians 2:15 He disarmed ("stripped" - like they had done to him) the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

They put him up on the cross to make a spectacle of him; to shame him. They stripped him of his power, rights, dignity, clothes...Yet, in the very act, God was stripping them. He was beating them at their own game, and IN their playing their own game; in the very act.

Joey T said...

How should Christians respond to terrorism? Lee Camp's "Mere Discipleship" speaks to this. I think Camp would say, "Turn the other cheek."
I agree.

Jonathan Storment said...

Well I think the easiest way of defeating terrorism is to stop being terrified. The defeat of death now should defeat the fear of death. That's where the power to turn the other cheek comes from, knowing that there is no reason to fear the he who can harm the body. Anyway, more there, but I don't want to hog your comment space.

Dan said...

My view is that the government's job is to insure the security of its citizens, while the role of a Christian is to work within that realm of security to redeem the lost. So, on a personal level, Christians should not have any more fear of dying at the hands of a terrorist than dying any other way. But I can't see a politician, even a Christian politician, saying after 9/11, "just get ready to die in case you do."