There is nothing new under the sun. So says the writer of Ecclesiastes.
Being human at times appears to resemble a rather sad comedy. One day we puff out our chests and declare how progressive and innovative we are. Forward thinking, tolerant, streets ahead of those who have lived before us. And on other occasions we repeat the same mistakes of generations long gone. Our propensity for manipulation, falsehoods, love of power and corruption, duplicitous and self serving – no matter what.
Reading through the pages of the Bible is a testament to our deeply flawed human condition on the one hand, and on the other the exquisite wonder of love, grace, and sacrificial generosity possible in us as well. Humanity is a muddle of good and bad, innocence and conniving, violence and tenderness, wisdom and foolishness, humility and pride. The list of paradoxes and contradictions is long. Mother Theresa living alongside Adolf Hitler.
I guess this is why on occasion we find life so confusing and mystifying. One day oppressive and another day inspired. It has always been that way. Christianity wriggled and squirmed from the stable in Bethlehem into the person of Jesus claiming to be the revelation of God become flesh. The powers of the day attempted to kill him at birth, harass him when he began public ministry, and plotted to kill him once and for all. Some called him gifted and Messiah, others smeared him with insults and mocked him as insane. Crowds cheered his entry into Jerusalem and within a week raised their voices for Barabbas and salivated at the prospect of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Human beings have not changed much over 2000 years in our vulnerability to believe a voice rather than press for facts. We crave leaders who do what we want and we will swivel and change on a dime when the promises on the podium prove harder to deliver on the pavement.
I often want to give up hoping or believing. It costs too much. But the very reasons I have to justify turning my back on people are the ones God gives to enter into the turmoil of life on earth. Rather than berating the darkness he brings light, instead of pointing fingers and accusing, he speaks hope and models a better way. Even when he is rejected, misunderstood, or ignored. It often takes time for truth to surface, integrity to shine, and what is right and good to prevail. Many times not within our hearing, or even, perhaps, our lifetime.
I was reading the last chapter of Matthew(28) after the crucifixion when Jesus is placed in a guarded tomb. Three days later an angel appears and rolls the stone away. The tomb is empty. Everyone is terrified. The guards can’t explain and will eventually be punished with death. The disciples can’t believe this turn of events and the women run to tell the others the news. The guards report to the temple authorities and money is traded to fabricate a story about the body being stolen. The disciples have a revelation of Jesus that confirms that God is at work and death in his hands is not the end of life.
Two worldviews collide. One sees the empty tomb as a testimony to human failure and corruption, the other bears witness to the power of God to work a miracle unlike anything the world had ever seen before. In a world cluttered with ‘gods’ the greatest offense is taken when one God actually does something that stretches the credulity and minds of humanity.
The resurrection of Jesus remains the most controversial and wonderful moment in human history. He was either insane as CS Lewis stated or he was who he claimed to be. Looking around I see no evidence of humanity evolving and growing in character, kindness, altruism, or consistent and natural love for others. History sadly confirms our core issues imprison us in repeated cycles of the same expression manifest in different forms and with more sophisticated ‘toys’. We still need help that is beyond ourselves.
God’s kindness was revealed in the gift of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It was needed 2,000 years ago and it remains our only source of hope today. But if we never come to the end of ourselves we will invariably trade Jesus for Barabbas in our frenzy to implement a human solution to an impossible problem.