Through Lent and Holy Week we have walked with Jesus to the cross. Our participation in Jesus’ death is one way through which his death has healing and redeeming efficacy. We too must die to our ego-driven self if we are to experience new life (John 12:24–25).
The Passion story compels us, to not only identify with Jesus, but with all those who acted upon or in connection with Jesus. In so doing, we see our part in the crucifixion. Our shocking complicity in evil is exposed. Against this backdrop appears the shocking revelation of God’s love. Jesus says, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (12:32). In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ “lifting up” includes both the cross and the resurrection.
As the risen, cosmic Christ, the Spirit of God is at work wooing, drawing, nudging, and mysteriously persuading all of us into healthy divine-human relationship. On Good Friday we mourn Jesus’ death and our participation in his crucifixion. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus coming back into the world that rejected and crucified him.
The amazing thing about the gospel of the risen Christ is that it means that God continues to love the world and pursue the world, even when the world responds in horrific ways to the truth and goodness of God. But God must work in subversive ways. Easter was not a public, spectacular event. Only a few people witnessed the risen Christ. God has to get to us through the back door.
We couldn’t handle the truth that Jesus brought us, so we crucified him. We haven’t evolved much since then. Still today, we struggle with the truth that was incarnated in Jesus. But God does not give up on us. The hidden, subversive Christ is at work. The living Christ works through diverse mediators, persons, and experiences to draw us into a transformative relationship. The living Christ is not limited by time and space, nor by creeds and dogma, and is always breaking into our consciousness in fresh, unexpected ways.
The resurrection of Jesus is a foretaste and pledge of the triumph of love. God will never give up on the world. God will never give up on us, no matter how far we stray or how cynical we become. We may have to live through some “hells” before we get a taste of “heaven.” We may have to live with the consequences of our selfishness before we come to the place where we can “die” to the egotism of the small self and embrace the largeness and goodness of the Christ self, but that’s okay.
John’s Gospel says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (1:11). But God still “so loves the world.” John’s Gospel bears witness to a great truth: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (13:1b). And now that he is lifted up through death and resurrection, the cosmic Christ will continue to draw, through any means available, all people into the circle of God’s love, until there is no one left on the outside. Then will “the gates of Hades” be overcome and the Beloved Community complete.