Why Jesus?

Jesus is the centre and soul of our worship, and the rock upon which our faith must stand, but why Jesus?  It might have been anyone, really; there were plenty of faithful servants of God who might have been the focus for a movement to ‘change the world’ – to ‘usher in the promised Kingdom of God’…Prophets & kings lived and learned and passed away.  Judges held power and made policy – rabbis nurtured the faithful and yearned for a better day – why was Jesus’ influence so great?  what was different about him?

This was the main talking point as the Christian Church began to describe and defend itself.  Scholars and students, religious experts and ordinary citizens all wanted to know; what did Jesus do that we should follow him?  What does Jesus offer that cannot be found in the faith of our ancestors?  It was a question that not even Jesus’ disciples could answer as they approached Jerusalem for the passover celebrations.

They were following a friend – someone who seemed able to speak their dreams into reality.  People were finding healing and wholeness in Jesus’ presence.  Hungry people were being fed; those whom religious rules had long ignored (or disdained) were offered a place in the conversation, and heard – for the first time – that they were among those whom God loved. The were, in fact, revealed (by Jesus) to be the ones God loved the most.

Those who developed the theology of liberation, with the notion of God’s “preferential option for the poor.” were affirming this teaching of Jesus – suggesting that God does play favourites; but not in the way we may have imagined…

We have had many generations to try and understand this – in some places in the church, it is the only way to describe the reign of God – but in the beginning, the disciples had no words for what they saw happening.  It was different; it was exciting; and in the end it would get them all killed.

All of this is still so new to Jesus followers and friends, that as they enter Jerusalem, most of them are taken aback by the tension in the city.  The Romans are on edge, as they would be – occupiers are never comfortable when the people they oppress gather for festivals / celebrations.  The Jewish authorities are buzzing about this new teacher – who is gathering support; saying radical things; making a statement with his entry to the city (on a donkey – a mockery of a parade; a joke, really – what does he mean by that?  who is he insulting?  How can we stop his dangerous talk?)  Jesus  has suggested that the temple will be “thrown down” (Mark 13:1-2), and he has told his disciples that there is trouble coming (Mark 13:8ff)

For all that the disciples of Jesus have seen during their time together, and for all that they will see and experience in the next seven days, it is Jesus absolute determination to trust God that affects them the most; his summary of the commandments (Mark 12:28-31); his urging that they keep watch for the signs of God’s deliverance in the midst of the trouble that is coming their way, and the way he redefined the passover meal for them (Mark14:12-25); all these things reveal Jesus’ complete trust in God’s ability to redeem, to rescue, and to make good on the promise of ‘something new’.

This morning, we begin again the journey from Passion to Resurrection.  Jesus has confirmed his confidence in God’s providence in his brief but poignant prayer in Gethsemane.  His disciples have proven that they don’t appreciate what is really at stake; Peter brags that he will not be driven away  – none of them are able to keep their eyes open while Jesus prays.   Judas has chosen to profit from the act of turning Jesus over for ‘questioning’  because Jesus’ convictions have left he authorities no choice; this radical compassion is not welcome in a society that is devoted to security and control, and so the threat that Jesus represents must be removed.  If he will not ‘toe the line’, he must be punished – Jesus has to die.

What does not die – what cannot be killed –  is the principles that guided Jesus throughout his life.  His devotion to God; his absolute belief in justice, mercy and grace for all people; his assertion that God desired a relationship with us that was not ‘arms length’, but intimate and real; as close as that of a parent and child.  These are the things that attract us to Jesus.  These are the truths that will not be denied.  No hardship, no disaster, not even death can overwhelm God’s desire to see justice done – to show love to us and promote love among us – and the proof of this meets us three days after Jesus meets his doom on the cross.

A compelling story, some say; others say it is only an enduring myth, or a cruel trick to play on a people searching desperately for hope.  But we dare to say it is true.  Jesus, a kind and caring teacher – a humble man of God – endured ridicule, pain and death only to be raised from the grave by the power of God; a sign of hope for us and a confirmation of all that Jesus himself proclaimed about the lasting, living God.  We gather in worship to celebrate Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  We form communities that seek to share the love of God with one another, and with those who are harder to love.  We honour traditions of service and occasionally we reach out in new and dangerous ways.  We treasure our buildings as holy places, and recognize that the gift of faith makes all of creation holy again.

This is hard to explain to people who don’t know the story.  it seems like foolishness to those who choose to find satisfaction in the temporary delights that surround us in these days.  But we are given the task of living in a way that honours the gift of Jesus’ life and work.  We are called to give an account of the hope that is in us.  We are privileged to have this fantastic story to tell at a time when hope is very much needed, and faith seems a forgotten thing.  Let us take to the task with joy – let us live our faith as Jesus did – let us, this Holy Week, rediscover the truth of God’s undying love, made clear -at last- in Jesus.

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