Letting Go of Jesus

letting goJesus is alive!  He is risen!  He’s been raised from the dead after three days in the grave!  Hallelujah!  So what!?  I must admit that the whole resurrection thing just doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.  I mean, what’s the point?  Jesus went into a tomb dead and came out alive.  Big deal.  What did that do for the rest of us?  He went to heaven and left us here to fend for ourselves so I can’t say that I see too much reason for rejoicing.  Unless, that is, there really is some meaning to all this that we haven’t grasped thus far. 

Take James, for example.  James was a religious man.  He had great faith.  So much, in fact, that he believed that healing only came from God.  He belonged to a fundamentalist church that said sickness was the work of the devil and going to the doctor for healing showed a lack of faith.  So, when he started to feel ill, he went to the doctor for a diagnosis – not healing.  He wanted to find out what was wrong so that he knew what to ask the church to pray for.  The doctor came back with the diagnosis – liver cancer.  The good news was that the cancer was still in it’s early stages and they had caught it in time to remove the affected area and begin treatment.  He had a great chance of survival.  But, James wasn’t going to let the devil have the last word.  He was going to put it in God’s hands and let God do the healing.  

And so the congregation gathered around him regularly and prayed for him, laying hands on him, fasting, crying out to God.   Day after day, week after week, the congregation prayed for him and their pastor encouraged them to keep praying.  When he started to lose a lot of weight and became bedridden, the pastor said keep praying, God works in his own time. They kept praying until the day that James died.  That next Sunday, the pastor got up to the pulpit and said “Well, God works in mysterious ways.  We can’t fully understand his purpose.”  There was a noticeable tension in the air as many people glared at the pastor in anger.  Finally, one elderly lady in the back stood up and said, “Yeah, and God gave us doctors and we don’t even have the sense to use them!”  Sometimes our version of faith gets in the way of the deeper meaning.

There are four different accounts of the resurrection event.  Marks is the shortest and Jesus doesn’t even make an appearance.  In some accounts there are two angels, in some, one.  In some, the angels say go to Galilee and in others Jesus says to go to Jerusalem if the disciples want to find him.  The details are all over the place in these accounts and they don’t match up factually.  So I guess we should just toss them and assume that it never happened.  UNLESS, there is a unique meaning to each of these texts that supersedes the facticity.  Meaning doesn’t take away from the facticity, it just gives it meaning and truth.  

Now Jesus has been placed in a tomb and the Roman authorities think that they have shut him up once and for all.  His followers are dejected and hopeless.  We keep this story going in our mind that we celebrate every year that tells us that Jesus was rose on the third day and then went to be with God after appearing to the disciples.  Who said it was the third day?  We assume this because he was buried on a Friday and rose on a Sunday, but how do we know it was the Sunday right after the burial?  How do we know it wasn’t weeks or months later?  It would have made sense for Mary and the disciples to visit his grave on a regular basis.  Then, one day, the stone has been moved and he’s not there.  

Now comes the good stuff.  What does it mean that he’s not there?  He’s been resurrected.  Ok, so what does that mean?  Because we don’t have to look far to realize that this world is still severely messed up.  What meaning can we take from these accounts?  The women are told to go tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee.  What’s that about?  That, my friends, is where everything started.  Jesus began his ministry when he stood up and read from the scroll of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  THIS was the meaning of Jesus’ ministry and it all started in Galilee.  

Likewise, when they are told to find Jesus in Jerusalem, that is because that’s where the story ended.  Jesus accepted what he always knew would happen if he opposed the Roman authorities.  He knew that he would get crucified for stirring up the pot and when that came to fruition, he went willingly as an example to the disciples.  In a way, it showed them that, if you love someone enough, you will be willing to die for what is right.  This is the ultimate detachment – letting go of your own life so that others might find a way to live.  

Then, one of my favorite lines from all of the accounts is found in John when Jesus tells Mary, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  All of the sudden, everything that Jesus said and did in his ministry starts to flash through her mind and it all starts to make sense.  In Galilee he told the world what his ministry was about.  Then he went and did it.  He taught the disciples exactly what to do and say.  He showed them the way.  The way of love, compassion, respect, and hope.  At the transfiguration, he gave them all a test and they failed.  When the disciples fail to heal the boy with the demon, Jesus says, “How long must I be with you and put up with you?”  There it is!  Suddenly his statement to Mary makes all the sense in the world.  I showed you how to do it, now GO DO IT!  Why do you always want me to do it for you?  I have always showed you and then told you to go and do likewise and you still are holding on to me in hopes that I will do it for you.  If you still don’t get it, go back to Galilee where it all started and take a walk down memory lane.  Retrace the steps.  

Just like the scared and dejected disciples who were hunkering down in an upper room, 2000 years later we are still waiting for Jesus to make it all better.  Just like when God told Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?  YOU do something!” as the Israelites were traversing the Red Sea, those who knew Jesus were told, “You have to let go of me and do this yourselves. Just look.  God is in front of you and behind you all the way.  You are not alone, but you have to take the initiative to actually DO what I taught you for the kin-dom of God to become real on earth.  Pilate and the Sanhedrin thought they were shutting me up forever and ending this movement.  If you don’t do anything, that’s exactly what will happen.  I’ll stay here in this grave and that will be it.   

The gospels are four different accounts for four different audiences from four different perspectives.  It would do us well not to lose the forest for the trees.  The resurrection story is the last story in these gospels.  Why?  Because that’s where it all ends?  Nope.  It’s just the beginning.  It’s up to us to write the rest.  

One Response to “Letting Go of Jesus”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    At an intuitive level I also felt that it was up to me, to do something (study hard, be diligent, work alot, etc.) to improve my lot in life. But all the while it seemed to me that there was also luck involved – as not all breaks that came my way were bestowed upon others.

    I used the expression that I had heard (“there but for the grace of God go I…”) but deep down didn’t really feel that God factored in, one way or another. There has always been, and presumably always will be, too much pain and sorrow that comes with the human condition for me to believe that God was in any way involved in human affairs. While I understood the sole survivor from the horrific plane crash praising God for “looking out for me”, I immediately pivoted to rhetorically wondering why God didn’t “look out” for the 199 that perished.

    So I long ago concluded that God is not a father figure type seated in the clouds keeping watch over our actions or pulling the strings as grand puppet-master. Thus did I feel it was incumbent upon me to take responsibility for my own life. I do not recount this boastfully, but rather soberly. There is so much that I cannot get my mind around. My heart feels the love and affection that comes from interaction with loving and affecting people. Is that God? Is that too ethereal? Is it enough for me to opine that God is Love?

    I cannot begin to fathom the resurrection. But I can and do rejoice in Jesus’ ministry, and do feel that the spirit of the Lord was indeed upon him. How else to explain him carrying through to the end his mission, notwithstanding his certain peril.

    I have always been struck with the heart-breaking, all-too-human lament near the very end of his historical life: “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

    Who among us knows God as Jesus knew God? And yet, in his darkest hour, even Jesus — inhumanely brutalized beyond repair — understandably despaired. Unseemly though his crucifixion was, that human lamentation strangely comforts me, as even arguably the most spiritual person in history — who knew his fate, and what it would mean to allow it to unfold — nevertheless questioned God, or so it seems to me.

    That makes me less critical of myself for my own questions, doubts, struggles, puzzles. Perhaps this is merely a convenient rationalization.

    Or perhaps God has not forsaken any of us, but rather provided a way, and left us to proceed accordingly…?

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