Friday, March 25, 2005

The Cross Transformed

It was an unimaginable event on an otherwise ordinary day. Their world came crashing down around them and they could not conceive of any satisfactory outcome to their crisis. Jesus had been arrested by the authorities, deserted by his friends, rushed through a series of illegal trials, and finally executed outside the city gates like a common criminal. Three years of investment on their part ended abruptly on the cross that day.
In some ways they should have seen it coming. Jesus had told them plainly that the cross was on the horizon, but they were oblivious to what he was saying. His conflicts with the religious leaders were increasing in frequency and intensity, but Jesus was winning those conflicts in the court of public opinion. The crowds were swelling again with his arrival in Jerusalem. There was a great sense of expectation and optimism. And then the cross... It turned the entire ministry of Jesus and the lives of all the disciples into a giant question mark!
What will we do now? How could we have been wrong about Jesus and God? What does it mean for our theology that God allowed Jesus to be murdered? The questions were painful and pervasive. They were also unanswered...
The Sunday after the crucifixion started normally enough, but then stories began to circulate. "His body is not in the tomb!" "Mary Magdalene claims to have seen him alive." Their questions deepened even as their faith was stirring. By the end of the day Jesus had presented himself alive to all the apostles (except Thomas). While they did not have the theological words to express what had happened in this incredible weekend, their experience was profound at the deepest level and soon those theological explanations would emerge. "This same Jesus whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ" Peter would insist. "The Word became flesh and lived among us for a time" claimed John.
The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. His disciples became relentless witnesses claiming to find the "fullness of God dwelling in Jesus Christ." Men and women who seemed like a "Who's Who List" of outcasts, nobodies, and insignificant people changed the world forever with the story of Jesus conquering death in that amazing weekend. We still celebrate it today - and more importantly we still experience the resurrection through Jesus! The resurrection turns the question mark of the cross into an exclamation point.

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