Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 31, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

tissot-saint-peter-and-saint-john-run-to-the-sepulchre-541x733They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Reflection on the gospel reading: A resurrected Jesus is really dangerous stuff.

There are people who want Jesus without the resurrection. They want to take a pen knife to the Bible and cut out the miracles and the supernatural. They want to strip away from Jesus his resurrection and ultimately his divinity. They want a Jesus who is a sort of a New Age guru who speaks to us the timeless truths of love, nonviolence, and forgiveness. People who regret the accounts of the resurrection but love Jesus’ teaching find the resurrection passages to be inconvenient because they believe they are superstitious road blocks to the recognition of Jesus’ moral genius.

The immediate challenge of this approach, of course, is that it has to ignore the sources. It does not take a lot of reflection to acknowledge that the four evangelists were absolutely fascinated with Jesus’ miracles and exorcisms and obsessed with Jesus’ passion and resurrection. For example, fully one quarter of all the words in Mark’s gospel deal directly with the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s epistles, which actually are older texts than the four gospels, hardly touch any of Jesus’ teaching. What rivets Paul, what Paul returns to again and again just 20 years after the crucifixion, is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The Acts of the Apostles, as we will hear time again in the weeks to come, is full of remembrances by Jesus’ disciples of the Lord’s 528401_10151313171376496_1858227878_nresurrection. Every historical source we have testifies to the fact that the disciples who claimed to have experienced the resurrected Lord were willing to die for this claim even when they had the opportunity to renounce it.

The second issue with the white washing of the gospels to exclude the resurrection is that it leaves us with someone who is pretty easy to dismiss. Jesus becomes a great saint, an important moral leader, an inspiration for a radical vision and commitment of the truth, but then we can go and get dinner, or do the wash, or pick up the kid. Jesus without the resurrection is Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, or Robert F. Kennedy: someone whose bold pronouncements about truth and justice lands him in hot water. Yes, someone to be admired, but imitated? No, much too dangerous. Great fellow, that Jesus; let’s get dinner.

A Jesus raised from the dead, however, is an entirely different order of reality. This Jesus is dangerous, because this Jesus’ vision has been ratified in a direct and unmistakable way by God. A Jesus raised from the dead is dangerous, because we are very comfortable, and a guy who pushes over tables in the temple and tells us to go, sell everything, and give it to the poor, challenges our safe and secure middle class sensibilities.

We much prefer a homogenized Jesus, a Jesus we can worship on Sunday but safely pack away into some cardboard box for the rest of the week. We can admire and ignore a Jesus stripped of the resurrection, but a Jesus whose life and message is ratified by the resurrection from the dead might just ask us to do something that challenges us and frightens us. And if we really believe in the resurrection, and the guy who was resurrected asks us to do something that puts us outside of our safety zone, just what are we to do with that?

A resurrected Jesus is very dangerous stuff.

Spiritual reading: The resurrection does not consist merely of the appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his death. Many think that these appearances in Galilee and Jerusalem are the resurrection. But they are simply to confirm the faith of the disciples. The real resurrection is the passing beyond the world altogether. It is Jesus’ passage from this world to the Father. It was not an event in space and time, but the passage beyond space and time to the eternal, to reality. Jesus passed into reality. That is our starting point. It is into that world that we are invited to enter by meditation. We do not have to wait for physical death, but we can enter now into that eternal world. We have to go beyond the outer appearances of the senses and beyond the concepts of the mind, and open ourselves to the reality of Christ within, the Christ of the resurrection. (Bede Griffiths OSB, The New Creation in Christ: Christian Meditation and Community)

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