Who do you say I am?

by Rod Smith

 

Easter challenge remains

 

Buy it or not (and I do), the New Testament’s account of what occurred over what we call Easter, two millennia ago, is dramatic. It is at least as dramatic as the Christmas story with the baby, the crib and the procession of worshippers who came to greet the Christ child. Easter places the baby – now a guileless but powerful miracle-performing 33-year-old man – on the executioner’s cross, the the electric chair, or the hangman’s noose of the day.

 

There’s every element of drama in the brutal saga that unfolds. Love, betrayal and denial. Unprecedented cooperation between superpowers of government and temple.

 

This man, who says he is God’s son, is paraded before the rich and powerful, then mocked and scorned. At the zenith of his need, a friend walks away, claiming Jesus to be a stranger to him. 

 

Then, he who healed the masses and raised the dead is himself dragged through the city for public execution.

 

His death on “Good” Friday is grueling and gruesome. 

 

Yet, at the moment of his greatest pain, he considers his mother and makes plans for her care. He provides comfort to a common criminal also facing public execution. While fixed to the cross with nails through his limbs, he prays forgiveness upon his executioners, then yells out in pain because the God and Father he has loved since before the beginning of time is absent, has abandoned him. Then he breathes a final breath, and it is finished.

 

On the Saturday, his followers confront the reality of his death, the death of their dream and the end of a shared vision. Men and women who had ventured all on his behalf are now abandoned, leaderless. They have lost all. They who had forsaken all are now the forsaken. The leader of the sometimes unruly and diverse mob is dead, entombed with the door to the tomb sealed shut with a rock of considerable size.

 

Sunday comes and the tomb is open and empty. 

 

A crucified man is up and walking. 

 

He appears suddenly here and there presenting himself, sometimes in private to individuals and also to masses of people. Within days, he’s making breakfast on a beach, calling the one who ran away from him and denied him to join him for a meal that he has already prepared, having made the fire himself.

 

What landed Jesus in trouble was that he lived a life that supported and endorsed his claims. 

 

His life, not only his words and his teaching, challenged the ruling religious order. Few religions enjoy being challenged, let alone do they tolerate when a person making the challenge so completely “walks the talk.”

 

My faith doesn’t land me in hot water like Jesus’ faith did for him. This is not because I am not sometimes zealous about my faith, but because I am a hypocrite. I am not always who I say I am. I’m often not myself. I often fail to display integrity. 

 

Jesus was always who he claimed to be. 

He was thoroughly authentic, and it was this authenticity, this integrity, that angered people and upset governing powers. It rocked the status quo at places of worship and made him a sufficient threat so that his critics would take his life in the most barbaric manner their righteous minds could conceive.

 

The world can deal with my claims about myself. 

 

They are as fragile and empty as most people’s claims about themselves. 

 

Most of us, zealous or not, can tolerate the dreams of the guy next door. 

 

But it was not empty claims that got Jesus in trouble. Many had come claiming to know, be, or represent God. 

 

His life, his deeds gave profound evidence to the fact that he was who he said he was. 

 

It was this that authorities could not stomach.

 

At every Easter, we are each challenged to take the time to answer the question posed by Jesus to his outspoken friend: “Who do you say that I am?”

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