Sunday, 8 April 2007

The Meaning of a Particular Death

Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet that was executed at Passover time, died a significant death. He had planned it for some time, telling his disciples that he meant to die and through his death would come salvation for all people. Today I’m not writing about the kind of salvation that has been rammed down our throats since Augustine. The salvation is salvation from ourselves.

After telling them that he meant to die, he set about arranging it. He made controversial political and religious statements so as to enrage his enemies at the same time as he wanted to make a point. He evoked the image of the Hebrew messiah by riding into the capital on a donkey (“Behold, Jerusalem, your king is coming on a donkey”). It’s likely that he even asked Judas to help him meet his fate by asking him to hand him over (only interpreted as ‘betray’ in the Biblical Greek) to the authorities. After denying the position of political messiah for so long, why evoke it now? In order to die.

Jesus intentionally went to the cross to die as a failed messiah. He took on the image of a messiah so that he could be tried and executed as a political leader. This death is the death of Israel – and of all nationalists. It is the symbol that seeking nationhood is not what God wants. Rather, Jesus’ death was the symbol of the death of government and nationhood.

But from this death comes birth. In the death of the nation comes the birth of the community. With the death of identity that could be gained from lines on a map or ethnicity or citizenship test… with this there was a new identity – a Jesus follower, a Christian. This community was meant to supersede the nation, a concept that could fall by the wayside.

Jesus died as a failed political leader and emerged as a successful founder of a community who would live on in imitation of him. Let us not forget this message and instead of falling into rank beside each other and behind the barrel of a gun, let us instead form a community of people who want to live in the peace of God’s community; living as imitators of Jesus.
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