The Bits In Between

I’ve said before that I’m not a great reader. If it’s not just a technical book where I’m looking for some information, my practice with a new book is to read the beginning to get the gist of what the author is about, and then go to the end of the book to see if the outcome seems interesting or worth my effort and time. But with the Gospel accounts of Jesus life, my technique would give a very wrong impression.
I have always liked Easter time, warmer days and lighter evenings. But if we stop to reflect on what happened to Jesus after what we call the “Last Supper” it’s really too horrible to dwell on. So, contrary to our other thoughts of springtime, the brightness of the flowers, lambs in the fields and birds singing in the blossom-filled trees and all bathed in warm sunshine, we see only horrific suffering and callous behaviour from which we shield our thoughts and imagination.

If we can put ourselves in the sandals of the Disciples, and witness the last few days of Jesus’ life and how it ended we can only see and feel total shock, disaster, catastrophe. And we would be totally distraught. How could this be? Jesus had only just been seen riding triumphantly into Jerusalem and all that it symbolised (Matt 2:1-11).
The disciples had found being with Jesus exhilarating, sometimes puzzling, but certainly exciting. They’d given up everything. They couldn’t quite grasp the enigma of this teacher and friend. Above all he was strong yet caring, and performed signs confirming his close relationship with God. He was popular with the ordinary people. The disciples had realised that here was the Messiah (Matt 16:20). He was not the kind of messiah they had expected, but they had vowed their allegiance to him.
Even though he had warned them of hard times ahead, now they felt badly let down. Surely this had been God’s best chance to re-establish his position with his people, and yet Jesus’ mission had collapsed – a public and ignominious failure. God, the almighty creator had let the worst happen. Why? And what was the point any more?
No wonder they had failed in their promises to Jesus. They were crushed and afraid.
After Jesus’ death the disciples kept together for mutual support but in fear and behind a locked door (John 20v19). Events didn’t stop. The disciples heard a report that Jesus was alive and had been seen and they found it to be true – amazing.

My shortcut kind of reading might come in at this point and I’d be thinking Jesus had a brilliant start, and look how it turned out so well, which of course it did. But this misses so much. The point of it all and the lesson and potency for us are the demonstration of the love of God and of Jesus. Here we see a direct appeal to all mankind. It is to get a grip on reality, to see the bigger picture of our nature compared with God’s, and to choose to be on God’s side overcoming – destructive pride like that of the pharisees – conceit and vicious envy as displayed by the leaders of the people – harshness of uncaring overlords, in this case the Romans. And more than this, to see evil overcome by good – the healing of the downcast and broken, the giving of new sight to the blind, and the releasing of the captives from their hopelessness and fear. This after all is God’s way as Jesus emphatically demonstrated and confirmed when he emerged triumphant having conquered even the very worst. That’s why we want to remember him as he asked.

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