New Easter Names
Do the conventional names of the days leading up to and including Easter convey the radical nature of the story, give us a sense of the flow of events?
In this post I'd like to change with the names of these days so that the story and its implications for our lives have perhaps more of a chance of being seen, felt, and heard.
His Torture and Lynching
The Persuasion of the Witnesses
(a.k.a. "Maundy Thursday")
Jesus humbly washes the disciples feet, much to Peter's dismay.
"Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord and so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you."
That night, he consolidates all his teaching into a simple "new commandment." The day is conventionally called "Maundy Thursday." "Maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum" from whence derive the words 'mandate' and 'commandment.' Jesus made his message very clear that night:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34)
That night, in great compassion, Jesus addressed their current fears and the terror he knew was just around the corner for them.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
When will he "come again?" Jesus taught he’s here in the poor, the stranger, the hungry, the troubled, the neighbor, the sick (the suffering alcoholic), the incarcerated...(Matthew 25:31-40). “As you did for the least of these....”
That night, he enacted the loving surrender of his own blood and body to his disciples through the wine and bread of the Passover meal; he surrendered to the will of the Father in the Garden and therefore to arrest by the Roman soldiers. His sacrificial offering is analogous to that of the unblemished lamb for the Hebrews in Egypt, which on the night of the "destroyer" (Exodus 12:23) provided protection. Hence John the Baptist states, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
That final passover meal demonstrates and mandates the Great Reality of love in the face of imminent destruction and God's protection: the destruction of the Egyptians (their eldest sons and Pharoah's army), the divine protection of the Israelites: the destruction of Jesus' body, the divine protection of his identity and being; the destruction of the status quo, the protection (by mandate) of love and truth.
The Torture and Lynching of Jesus
(a.k.a. "Good Friday")
The events flowed quickly that night into the next day. After Jesus prayed in anguish to the point of sweatung blood in Gethsemane, her surrendered to God's will, and was promptly arrested by Roman soldiers; next, the political authority, Pontius Pilate, washed his hands and turned "an innocent man" over to be lynched as demanded by the will of the crowd egged on by the religious authorities.
Next came whipping torture whereby most of his skin was ripped open, his flesh further lashed, followed by carrying his own cross to the top of a hill, jeered, stoned, whipped, spat on, and mocked as he went. Finally, on the cross, four nails were pounded into him; he died after calling out heartbreakingly to the Father, his Spirit broken. "Abba, abba, why have you forsaken me?" His body was taken down and removed to a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers.
NOTHING was "good" about "Good Friday" any more that anything is good about a day a human being is lynched. The conventional name seems to be a white-washing mask for the horror of the truth;
Another distortion exists in religious mentions of that "good" day. In the Nicene Creed, Christians are mandated to state, "and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate" or be considered heretical if they don't. Say what? It was the religious authorities not the political ones that truly crucified him. It should say, "and was crucified by the jealous religious authorities who incited the mob to demand his execution." Pilate "washed his hands" and abandoned Jesus (much like Adam in the garden, who said nothing as Eve took the apple). That distortion has allowed the construction of yet another religious empire, a tyranny which has never been suspect to the level it should be and has become yet another instrument of oppression throughout these last 2 millennia.
Furthermore, the deepest meaning of that day is what it says to me about how I am known. It's just a fact that I also could have been an envious chief priest or within the crowd calling for Jesus's death. After all, the NAME Jesus was sandpaper for years; I scoffed at and shunned those who talked reverently or even positively about him, about church, who wore crosses or affixed fish to their cars. Jesus represented establishment hypocrisy, zombie obedience, creative suffocation.
How did my attitude develop unnoticed, unchecked, under the radar, to such an extent? Creeping beliefs, unexamined ideas, sneaky lies inculcated via an almost inaudible cultural whisper to the point that someone like me, priding myself on my intelligence, was in a delusional stupor. My own experience proves I could have been a Nazi, a Klan member picnicking on the blood soaked roots of the Poplar trees, a Pilate, a Pharisee, a chief priest. Unwittingly, I worshiped various "counterfeit gods:" as Tim Keller calls them: hip mentors, artists, the approval of others, money, worldly success, creativity, looking good, feeling good, prestige by association, cool "toys."
"Forgive them. They know not what they do." Jesus asked God to forgive me as I was crucifying him. That's deep. Known AND loved. Known AND forgiven.
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God's saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us." - Tim Keller
The Mystery Exodus
(a.k.a. "Holy Saturday")
Once within the tomb that Friday night and over the duration of Saturday till before dawn on Sunday, Jesus's broken Spirit and Body were entirely healed and at some point he got out of the tomb; a holy scientific mystical energetic physical process occurred, the deepest of mysteries yet plausible to me! To call it an "Exodus" is to link it to the Passover in Egypt, the lamb is sacrificed, the blood shed, the Destroyer has come and gone, the Israelites leave, the body is removed, the Red Sea parts, God reunites the body and soul of Jesus once again. Give God the credit just as we did not give the Israelites credit for the parting of the Sea! Why are we asked to worship Jesus? It reminds me of Charlotte's Web. Everyone is amazed by Wilbur but it is Charlotte (and ultimately God) who weaves the "radiant" web.
The Persuasion of the Witnesses
In the very early morning, while it was still dark, the women went to the tomb, were spoken to by the angel, and discovered the body of Jesus was missing. The soldiers reported the same to the political authorities. Jesus then visited thousands that day and over the next 40 days before ascending bodily into the sky.
The most important part of the "resurrection," which I assume really occurred on Saturday, is the persuasion of the witnesses. The soldiers may or may not have been persuaded, but they witnessed the truth of the stone's placement, the tomb's emptiness, the cover-up lies of the religious authorities. Mary is persuaded by the sound of his voice, by embracing him. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are persuaded by the knowledge he displayed followed by their realization of his identity. More disciples were persuaded that day when he appeared to them in the room where they hid.
These appearances were the first of many that took place over the next 40 days before he ascended. The persuasion took time. Thomas was not present at the first appearance and would not believe unless he himself put his fingers into Jesus' wounds, which he was given an opportunity to do. 40 days... like Noah on the Ark, like Moses on the mountain, like the Hebrews in the desert, like the temptation of Jesus. A stretch of time sufficient to accomplish God's purposes.
Renamed from Easter to "The Persuasion of the Witnesses" the day anticipates the duration and thoroughness of Jesus's walk with us after Calvary, after the tomb. The word "faith" comes from the word meaning "to persuade." Surely, God's purpose in Jesus' death and resurrection, appearance to many is to give us faith in all his teachings, including those of eternal life and the purpose of our walk on this Earth. The persuasion is his final act of love, a recognition of the challenge of faith. Once again, he shows we are known AND loved. He does what he believes it takes at that time to get us beyond our doubt.
"To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” - Tim Keller
An innocent, pure, black Teacher and holy man, the Lord, who bore witness to the living, loving God in our midst was put to death by a vicious mob, a sick system that literally washed its hands of injustice, and religious authorities so invested in maintaining the status quo than the truth had to be killed.
As a child we sang, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" and everybody felt some kind of power... but in our church we never sang the blues on account of the lynching, never lamented like Jeremiah, despaired like the Psalmist. How can you have a happy ending without the truth of the tragedy? That's precisely what much religious culture does, makes everything about the resurrection. It's a nauseating edit, a distorted history that robs our relationships with God, Jesus, mystery, science, and with one another of their depth and weight.
It gives me profound hope that no matter what, the deepest “magic” (i.e. science) belongs to God. Jesus ate, walked, talked, just as real as I am as i write these words after he died. He is alive still.
Does that mean Emmett Till, too, is alive? Of course it does. Eternal life is real. That's why our hearts need not be troubled.
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