We have all heard it before, why did Jesus have to die? We have also heard all the theological and ecclesiastical answers to the questions; and I must confess that I embrace a few of them. But today I want to explore this question on a bit of a different path.
Jesus was born in the must humble means, his birth brought God into the everyday realities of humanity. Jesus was raised by a common ordinary Jewish family; with a blue-collar father and a mother who devoted herself the responsibilities that surrounded the home. In spite of all this commonality, Jesus was nonetheless God; but because of his external appearance and nature those who should have recognized the deity that was hidden behind human flesh and bones either could not or simply refuse to do so.
The compassion that Jesus had towards all of humanity, his ability to suspend the laws of nature, and his ability to heal diseases and disabilities should have been enough for people to be convinced of his divinity. However, Jesus meet the same fate that all the sages and prophets of old did, in that the people had their vision of God and were not willing to conform to the divine direction because it required them to embrace something that they did not what. Jesus gave them every kind of evidence of who he really was, but because he was not their image of God they ignored him and did their best to distance themselves from his compassion. Every time Jesus did a common miracle they wanted an even bigger symbol that he was God or at the very least an earthy king; and because of this he knew that he would have perform something grand and powerful for them to realize that he was God.
So now we come to the proverb, be careful of what you ask for. Jesus was going to give them a miracle that would be on one hand the grandest thing that humanity would ever witness and on the other hand would confounded humanity to no ends. As humanity understands things, a miracle or wonderful act comes about because someone performs it in an external manner; such as reaching out and touching something or moving an object from one place to another. Jesus was about to perform an action that would profoundly proclaim that he is God and leave no doubt of his identity. What Jesus was about to do was not to perform a miracle upon someone else, but to perform a miracle upon himself; under normal circumstances this does not sound like an event worthy of a notation in history. However, the miracle that Jesus was going to do would go far beyond curing himself of a common form of influenza or even a common form of suspension of natural science. Like I said, be careful of what you ask for.
Jesus allowed the citizens and authorities of Palestine and Jerusalem to set the stage for this miracle and put things into motion; he allowed them to be as abusive as they desired and even was passive towards them as they caused great and unmentionable harm towards him. In other words, he allowed them to think and believe that they were in control and masters of the moment. By dying through an ugly form of death Jesus proved that he was completely human and subject to every joy and pain that humanity was created with. Through proving beyond any doubt that he was human he was setting the stage to prove that he was divine. By dying disgracefully he allowed them to mock him and prove that he was truly abandoned and very dead. Again, he allowed them to believe that they were masters of the moment.
From a human stand point, dead people cannot perform miracles, the body is lifeless and void of personality. In other words it cannot do anything and is worthless. Therefore on one hand Jesus was dead and in the other hand the stage had been set for a great miracle. Now Jesus was buried in a nice place and to ensure that his body would remain safely and secured in the tomb a unit of Roman soldiers were assigned to guard it. Some of these soldiers witnessed the body of Jesus being placed into this grave and once the tomb had been closed they placed a seal on it. Jesus could not be more dead and buried.
A couple of days later the morning detachment assigned to guard the grave were going through the normal routine when things quickly went from very normal to very abnormal; these brave and strong Roman guards went from confident individuals to being scared beyond their wildest imagination. These warriors whom the known world feared and respected were witnessing the power and authority of the living God in a way that very few throughout history have. At first they may have thought that a strong earthquake had happened, an earthquake would rattle the nerves of these Romans, but it would not scare them. From their stand point, the earthquake caused the stone to move in a way that opened the grave; this would be an easy fix and they could seal the grave once the repairs were done. However, what happened immediately after the grave was opened was anything but normal. As it turned out, the grave had been opened because of an authority within it and a dead person whom some or all recognized, not a ghost, walked out of this grave. The person who was dead an hour ago was now very much alive and most likely said to them in a very human voice, peace be with you. Needless to say, these mighty warriors were reduced to a fear that resemble insanity and their only response was to run away (could you blame them?).
Now who was the master of the moment? Jesus had performed a great miracle and had proven that he was the living God. He had awakened himself from death in a manner that resembles a human being awakening from a deep sleep. No human or heavenly being came and caused him to awake from this sleep; he did it on his own and had highly creditable witnesses, Roman soldiers. In time they would not be the only witness, but these Gentiles were the first human witnesses of this great awakening. Jesus, the Holy Anointed One of God, was alive and doing just fine. Glory be to God on high and peace to the people upon the earth. Amen.
Written by Dave Pflueger April 16, 2012 © copyrighted by Pflueger