The Resurrection Revolution
Jesus the radical, the reformer, and Jesus the revolutionary
It is radical to say something that no one else is saying. It is radical to believe something no one else believes. Radicals live on the fringes. Radicals are unacceptable in popular society. And radicals, more often than not, are killed.
We, as human beings, are designed to not be challenged. Our default is to be on the throne. Brain science tells us that we are only able to process something rationally if it is a 5% alteration from where we are at. Change is slow. So, what do you suppose happens when someone challenges the very foundation of the culture around them.
If it is radically different, “fight or flight” kicks in. That message, that person, that way of living is either something run from, or fight against. What if someone comes with a radical that turns our whole world upside down? “There is a new way to live. There is a new way to be free. There is a new way to be human!” This is the radical message of the cross. When it came to fight or flight, the Romans said, “fight!” This is the message Jesus died for.
He came to a world where the only way to get ahead was to kill. The only way to grow was to conquer the weak. The only way to be human was through power. So the powerless were treated like animals, gathered together and killed for speaking out like a rooster too early in the morning. The weak were herded into barns and milked of all they had. This was the foundation of the Roman world. When we think of Rome today, we think of soldiers. When we think of empires, we think of war—BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THEIR WORLD WAS ABOUT. WAR was the WAY TO BE HUMAN.
Jesus’ radical message to a war hungry nation was, “love your enemies. Don’t crush them. Don’t separate the Jews from the Greeks, or the salve from the free, or the man from the woman.” AND if THIS is your message, and THAT is your culture… what do you suppose would happen?
Jesus, knowing that his message of love and peace was radical to a war-torn nation said, “Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in three days.” (John 2:19) He said this while standing in front of the Jewish temple, the place of worship. BUT while he was standing in from of THAT, he was talking about THIS. This body, this life, this death, this resurrection. He says, “I’m going to be killed. That’s where this is headed, because you don’t confront corrupt systems of power without paying for it.”
BUT it is through the death of the old that something new is born. The people of Jesus’ day knew this well. The death of the Babylonians meant the rise of the Greeks. The death of the Greeks meant the rise of the Romans. The death of one king leads to the life of another. The death of one way of thinking, feeling, believing, leads to the life of another.
BUT who died? Which king died? Not Rome. Not Caesar. Not Herod. King Jesus. At first it looks like a failure. The death of another false Messiah. The death of a radical who should have just stayed silent. Around his naked body they wrapped a royal robe. On his head they placed a crown.
Mark puts it this way. (15:17-19, 25-27)
17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.
25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.
27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.
They raised him up, on high, and labelled him “King of the Jews.” In a grand statement, Rome said, “You want to have a kingdom, a crown, be high and lifted up above the people? Okay. Your wish is my command. This is what we think of your king. This is what we think of your Jesus. This is what we do with radicals.” He was hung out to dry with the other rebels, all those who opposed Rome.
Jesus pulled out his sword, stood alongside Peter and all the rest of his followers, slicing the ears off of everyone who got in his way. He fought the power all the way until the very end. Until his death. Until he lost. Is that what happened? No. Jesus did not buy into the way of the culture. His kingdom is not about taking, but about giving. When they expected him to defend himself, he didn’t say a word. When they wanted him to charge into battle, he gave himself up. Mark 15 records the conversation.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Amazed because this is not how radicals act! This is not the way of rebels! This is not how it works. Jesus, in a grand statement of non-violent resistance says, “there is a new way to be. A different way to life. You don’t have to fight any more. Jesus reforms the word without a sword.
Jesus the Reformer
The early Christians chose a common cultural phrase, “Caesar is Lord” and re-worked it. “Jesus is Lord.” The way of Caesar does not lead to reform. The way of Jesus is the way of reformation. It is through peace, love, and self-sacrifice that hearts and lives are changed.
Reformation looks like forgiveness of sins, not counting our sins against us. The Roman way is to kill the sinners, the dissenters, the different thinkers, the trouble makers. Jesus way is to love them, yes even them who we see as our enemies.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.
Once we were enemies. But, when confronting enemies, Jesus doesn’t respond like Rome. Jesus, when slapped, turns the other cheek. Jesus forgives, loves, and sacrifices. This is the radical reformation of the Gospel. It was radical then. It is radical now. Rome was build by the sword. THAT was the way to live, get ahead, be human. Today, we have our own way to live and get ahead. It comes with less blood, but just as much destruction. It is a “me first” culture. We deal in the language of “my rights” and “my freedom” and “my way.” Our currency is ego, and the rich are drunk on its power. We don’t use crosses, but crucify people much the same. Socially and emotionally, we cast them out simply for asking too many questions, for suggesting that we give something away, for implying that our money, or power is not god, but an idol.
We can follow THAT way of life, crushing all those who disagree with us, or follow the radical message of Jesus that brings true reformation. When faced with social or emotional death (the fruit of people’s sins against us) we can choose to say, “that’s who you say I am…” and nothing more. We can take up our cross as a sign of defeat, or as a radical expression of self-sacrifice. Why? Because there is a different way to be human. There is a way to be reformed.
BECAUSE I AM OKAY. THAT way of living has no power over me.
He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Power never likes to be made a public spectacle of. Powerful people do not like being laughed at. AND yet, it was Jesus refusal to conform to the way of leading with power that made it such a laughable thing.
When we refuse to budge against condemnation, refuse to be destroyed by others sins against us, refuse to bend beneath the weight of the Empire, the bully has nothing left. Satan, the great Acuser, needs some ammunition. He worked through the powers of the day to accuse Jesus of all sorts of things, but he didn’t bite at the bait. His sword stayed locked in its sheath. AND even once they killed him, his silence refused to stay silent. The dead didn’t stay dead, because all power was taken away from death.
Jesus says, “No matter the accusation, THERE IS A NEW WAY TO BE HUMAN. No matter the pain, THERE IS A NEW WAY TO RESPOND. THERE IS A NEW WAY TO LIVE. Forgiveness.” Forgiveness takes the ammunition away from the enemy. What kind of a war is it when the enemy shoots, you don’t shoot back. What kind of an argument is it when you are accused of many things (whether you did them or not) and you say nothing.
The only ammunition the Accuser has is our Sin. So when Jesus takes away our sin, there is nothing to accuse us of anymore! It may look like defeat. It may look like giving in. It might look like losing. But, in Jesus, the losers are the winners. Those who go to the cross and die are actually made alive again. Those who follow King Jesus to the very end are reformed, remade, renewed, knowing that there is a new way to be fully alive. AND it’s not about building myself up at the expense of others, but letting myself be torn down AND NOT LETTING IT TEAR ME DOWN… B/C IF GOD IS FOR ME, WHO CAN BE AGAINST ME? IF GOD HAS NOTHING TO ACCUSE ME OF… THEN WHAT ARE YOUR ACCUSATIONS TO ME?
Jesus the Revolutionary
How does this radical message of the Gospel make any difference at all? How does Jesus self-sacrificial love reform us? Perhaps it starts with revolution. It starts with asking the question “so what?” “Now what?”
Wikipedia – Revolution
“A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in political power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time when the population rises up in revolt against the current authorities.”
Jesus did not fight not come to bring a new way for you. He did not come to change people inside your bubble. He did not come to start a club, form a religion, of balance the scales with God. He came to start something that not even death can stop. He came to cause a turn around in your life, and a turn around in the world around us. His radical message did not just lead to a reformation, but a revolution. A time when we, the population of the Kingdom of God, rise up in revolt against the principalities and powers of this age and say, “THAT is not the way to be human anymore! THERE is a NEW WAY!”
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
For… you… died… and have been raised up! And What follows is resurrection life! It is a new way to be, a new way to live, a way that that challenges the way of the world around us. A way that isn’t about violence, or putting people down, but raising people up. These are the “things above” that we are to set our minds on. The Kingdom of God that we are OF making its way into the culture that we are IN. We should set our minds on the way of King Jesus. (And if you want to know what that looks like, go to the Cross.) Jesus self-sacrificial, others loving, revolutionary way to DIE to ourselves so that we can be RAISED BRAND NEW!
Have you ever thought, “I could never do that.” This is our default response when it comes to exceptional things. This applies to exceptional sports plays. Exceptional musical talent. Saying something is exceptional is saying that it is something not every can do. It is something I can’t do. EVEN EXCEPTIONAL LOVE. Setting our minds on the things above, on the way of the Kingdom of Heaven, moves us past normal love into the exceptional category. Loving our enemies is not something that we are wired for. Sacrificing ourselves for the sake of another is NOT the way of the world. NOT the way of Rome. NOT the way of Canada. AND when the Herod’s of today hear those accusations being thrown at us, they may respond with, “aren’t you going to say something?”
I’m sure we have all heard those tear-jerking stories of self-sacrifice. Those stories of exceptional love. Those people who put their ego aside and say, “the currency of the Kingdom is love. Those old self-centred bills are mere counterfeits.” These are the revolutionary acts of the people of God standing up for a radical message, living in a revolutionary way, because of a reformed self, and changing the world around us. People may say, “I could never do that. I could never give THAT up. I could never love THAT way. That’s exceptional.”
They’re right. Without the reformation of our hearts, the revolution would still be a revoltion to us. We would see the way of Rome around us and think, “I want THAT car. THAT job. THAT insurance plan. THAT bank account balance. THAT house. THOSE kids and THEN I WILL BE HAPPY. I don’t want to be POOR. I don’t want to be a radical, B/C radicals get killed by their culture.” Why would YOU do THAT for THEM?
The answer is: I wouldn’t… but now I will. I couldn’t… but now I can. All because of the radical way of my reforming saviour who started the resurrection revolution in my heart. Have you heard about him? His name is Jesus.