Holy Week is a time of reckoning. It is time to take stock. It is a time to re-examine our beliefs. It is a time to organize our priorities. It is a time to re-commit to Gospel values. The course of all these actions will depend on our concept of Jesus.
Some will re-focus on Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. He was the God-man the Father sent to die for our sins. His death would somehow make up for all our sins down through history. The re-newed focus will be on developing a more intimate personal relationship with Jesus. The emphasis will be a solipsistic focus on personal salvation somewhere out there and above here—heaven.
Others, myself included, will come to know a completely different Risen Christ. Anselm’s misbegotten substitutionary atonement theory is out the window. Jesus died because of our sins. We are so much like the apostles. Sometimes we betray Jesus to maintain our comfort zones. Sometimes we run away naked in the night as the soldiers seize Jesus. Sometimes we deny that we know him and we, like Peter, hear the cock crow. At other times, we may take the sword of violence and try to lop off the ears of those who resist our witness. Having once had the opportunity to sit in the Garden of Olives beside a 4,000 year old olive tree (It was there when Jesus prayed before his arrest as a common criminal.), I picture Jesus deep in prayer, deep in anguish, deep in fear, sweating as if he were bleeding. Across the hill, the city gates opens and a crew of soldiers carrying torches is coming toward the Garden. Jesus is about to pay the price for resisting empire, for resisting all that is opposed to the Kin-dom of God. In his weekly column, John Dear says it much better than I can:
As I studied the Gospels, I discovered nearly a dozen types of civil disobedience that Jesus practiced: his prophetic proclamation of the coming of God’s reign and his reading from the book of Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue as subversive truth-telling that threatened the empire; touching and healing lepers, which others thought would threaten everyone’s health; dining and associating with “public sinners,” outcasts and the marginalized; repeatedly breaking Sabbath laws; violating the cleanliness laws and eating codes; visiting “enemy” territories and associating with the enemy (such as the Samaritans) and with violent revolutionaries (the Zealots); engaging in symbolic action and political street theater (riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 about the coming of a king of peace who will end war forever); and urging people not to pay their taxes (one of the “capital crimes” for which he was “capitally punished”).
Certainly the climax of his public work — even his life — was his nonviolent civil disobedience in the temple, where he turned over the tables of the money changers and prevented people from engaging in the profitable big business of organized religion. The Synoptic Gospels tell the same basic story: Jesus marched from Galilee to Jerusalem on a campaign of nonviolence like Gandhi going to the sea or King marching from Selma, Ala., and entered the temple, where the religious authorities worked in conjunction with the empire and forced the faithful to pay a hefty sum to visit God, and engaged in nonviolent direct action. He did not hit anyone, hurt anyone, kill anyone or drop any bombs, but he was not passive. He was active, provocative, dangerous, illegal and civilly disobedient, a disturber of the peace, a troublemaker, a nonviolent revolutionary who broke the unjust laws and mores of an unjust society.
This is it. This is the Jesus then and Risen Christ now who beckons us to discipleship. Richard Rohr understands discipleship. Listen to his teaching. When Jesus shared the bread with his disciples, he did not say, “Think about this.” He said, “Eat it!” When he shared the cup of wine, he did not say, “Meditate on this.” He said, “Drink this!” Eucharist is about total commitment, total abandonment to the Risen Christ. It is about community—a community that is faithful to Gospel teachings.
Red Letter Christianity challenges us to live as Jesus lived:
The early followers of Jesus understood that their leader was a rebel. They recognized that his resurrection from the grave meant that the revolution was to be carried on. For them, the Easter experience of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus were essential. The cross had put an end to the old world order of sin and its resulting oppression and injustice; the resurrection signalled the beginning of a new world order— the entering of the kingdom of God. The empty tomb was a sign of victory. Jesus had conquered the enemy of evil— the devil and all forms of sin, such as the unjust power structures of the Roman Empire. The resurrection was the fuel that empowered the early church to go out and proclaim the manifestation of Jesus’ all-encompassing reign. To the church, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are pivotal epochs in the history of civilization. They are signs that the kingdom of God, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is now come. This is why the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper in feast-like fashion. Every time they broke the bread and drank the cup they celebrated the words of Jesus: “This is my body given to you… This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Lk 22: 19,20, emphasis added). Christ’s death installed a new covenant, the kingdom reign of God, and his resurrection authorized the immense power of this kingdom that we are now part of. To the early believers, this was revolutionary music to their ears as they lived out the kingdom of God in the midst of the dying empire of the world. They also paid the price of revolutionary martyrdom. (McCartney, Colin (2008-04-15). Red Letter Revolution: If We Did Revolutions Jesus’ Way (Kindle Locations 317-329). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.) I also recommend Shane Claiborne’s website– http://www.redletterchristians.org/ and the book by Shane and Tony Campolo (http://redletterchristians.org/redletterrevolutionbook/).
Take time this week to take stock. Who are you? Where are you going? Ask the Risen Christ to gift you with a “well-trained tongue” and “ears to hear” his real message. Ask for the grace, strength, and courage to live the Gospel—only use words if you have to. Join the Risen Christ in the revolution for the Kin-dom now!