Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter: Leap of Faith

Happy Easter, everyone! It's going to be a beautiful day!

I was thinking about Easter and what it truly means.

A man came to a city at the beginning of a religious festival. He was greeted by crowds with palm fronds, laying them before him as they did for many a king that came before him. He spent time talking to the people about the future, about change, about becoming something more than they were.

Six days later, after accusing the money lenders and the men of power of corruption and greed, desecrating the purpose of their offices and trodding upon the people they were supposed to protect, he enjoyed a nice dinner with some friends, accompanied by wine and bread (the best sort of dinner parties always have some good wine and bread) and then they had a serious discussion about the recent events and what the future held.

After the dinner party, the man and some of his friends retired to a garden to continue to discuss and meditate on the future. The man was troubled because he knew that his political activism had caused him to be noticed by certain men in power. He wondered if he had done the right thing and he prayed about it, asking for guidance, like many men before him and many after.

But, his activism had brought him to the attention of the powerful men and they had already planned to see him "legally" bound over and tried for crimes against the state. They questioned him for hours, denied him food and water and denied him any counsel except his own. Predictably, they found him to be guilty and bound him over for punishment by the state.

Like many men before them and many after, his followers were confused and mostly did their best to protect themselves. They only had a vague idea by information from their leader that one of their own had given their leader up. They were afraid that they would be next. The man that gave their leader up inspired a whole new word in many languages around the world: a Judas. A cheater, a snitch, a turncoat.

Not until Benedict Arnold did a man inspire such a hateful term by his name.

After the leader was questioned, the men seeking to stay in power, took him to the legal authorities of the state, trying to legitimize their power play. At first the state refused to interfere preferring to stay above the petty local politics and keep the situation from exploding. They did not want to be portrayed as the arm of these petty power brokers. But, as the days went on, the state decided that order would only be kept by bowing to the demands of the rabble. Still, the state thought they could play a little game. Give them something and maybe they'd be satisfied. So, they had the man beaten, whipped, scourged and generally tortured. Still the man refused to give them what they wanted. The state presented the beaten man to the mob and asked them if they were satisfied. They demanded again and again his death despite the terrible torture he'd gone through already.

So, the state decided they would attempt to play their last political card by granting a pardon to one man on this special day. He presented the mob with the activist and a real criminal, one known within the community to be a murderer and a thief.

The mob, led by the men of power, demanded the death of the activist and the criminal should be spared.

The state had played it's last card. Realizing that the actions of the state may begin something that they will have no control of in the future, the judge, whose main interest was in keeping his job and being recognized by his superiors, called for water and a towel, symbolically washing his hands of the whole situation and bowing to the demands of the people, sentenced that man to death in the most gruesome manner available to the state; one that they normally held for the most egregious of criminals or for enemies of the state.

Standing in the crowd were his mother and friends, witnessing the terrible plight of their loved one, yet unable to do anything about it, but pray and look for a miracle.

They watched the man, scourged and bleeding, a crown of thorns upon his head and a red cloak around his shoulders, mocking his leadership, be escorted from the place of judgment and, without any appeals, given a cross to bear to the hill where criminals were sent to die. Before him were driven two men, both known and prosecuted criminals. As they were driven to the hill for crucifixion with whips and jeers, the man stumbled and a woman came and gave him a drink and wiped his bloody face with her hair veil. Her name was Veronica and her veil, with the imprint of His face became a symbol of the strength of the mans countenance.

When he stumbled again, a man was pulled from the spectators. Though he wanted to refuse and had his own troubles and cares, he picked up the cross and dragged it with the man to the place of his death.

When they finally reached the place, the man was released from his duties, yet, he seemed unable to leave until he saw the other man's fate.

The activist was crucified along with the two criminals. He hung on the cross for hours, bleeding and dying, begging for a taste of water. A soldier placed a sponge with vinegar on his spear tip and placed it against the dying man's lips. Hardly sufficient to quench his thirst, simply another part of the torture he must endure after all of the pain that came before. The soldiers charged with guarding the crucified men played dice, gambling and laughing as the men above them perished in a horrible and slow manner. One of them had taken the red cloak from the activist and gambled for it's ownership; a soldiers lot being mean and poor.

As they gambled, a storm blew in. The soldiers had become tired of waiting for the dying. One of the soldiers thrust his spear into the side of the activist, puncturing his lung and causing the man to begin to suffocate. As the storm came on, another man took a large club and broke the legs of the men on the cross, forcing their weight to be taken in their arms and chest, ensuring even quicker death by suffocation.

The criminals, dying, spoke amongst themselves, knowing more than the people below them that the activist who hung with them did not deserve their fate. They asked the activist if what he said were true, about the kingdom of His father to come and he told them, "yes, and you will be with me there today." In his last breath, he looked upon his mother below and the few friends that had come to witness his death. He knew their anguish and wished that he could comfort them, but he could not. His dye was cast so long ago, the first moment he spoke against those in power. He asked that His father forgive them.

Finally, he passed and the storm brewed all around him. He was taken from the tree, the crucifix, wrapped in a shroud, cleaned and brought to a tomb in a hill.

This was "good" Friday.

On this "good" Friday, there were many of his family and acquaintances who wondered if there was anything really good about it. Would they, could they, be next?

Three days later, a message came that the stone blocking the tomb of the activist had been rolled away. His mother and his friend, came to the tomb to see. Surely the state would not be so evil as to steal away his body? But, when they came, his body was gone and two men sat in the tomb, chatting. They asked the women why they were seeking the living in the house of the dead.

The two women were confused and they hurried home to tell the others. Most of them thought it was fanciful and wishful thinking. The leader had said it would happen, but they were convinced it was the state trying to deprive them of the only thing they had left. But, when they came to the tomb, they saw the same thing.

A miracle had happened. A dead man had risen from his tomb and walked amongst the living.

When the activist showed himself onto his friends, they still could not believe. He had acted many miracles before their eyes, even raising another man from the dead. Yet, this one act seemed beyond him.

One in particular was the most forceful in denying the vision as real. He thought they were suffering from a mass illusion. His name was Thomas. Doubting Thomas. The activist told the man to come forward and put his finger in the holes in his palms where he had been nailed to the cross. Thomas was convinced.

These remaining friends and family took a leap of faith and decided to believe in the power of God.

It does take a huge leap of faith to believe a man can walk from the tomb.

Yet, after 2000 years, there were so many men and women who came after him, gambling all on a leap of faith.

Erik the Red, crossing an ocean that was said to fall off and be occupied by monsters. He found a new land.

Christopher Columbus bet his entire life and reputation on the fact that the world was round and that he could reach land by going west continuously.

Men took the first steam engine train when many others thought the speed would rip their flesh from their bones.

Later, men believed that men of different color could be the same as them and fought for it.

The next man believed he could send radio waves through the air while many laughed. And another believed he could fly with the aid of hot air and a containment device. And another believed he could fly with wings and an engine. Another thought he could transmit his voice over a wire. Still another believed he could harness the power of lightening, light the world with a current of energy and a piece of metal. Some believed they had discovered the smallest atom and how to divide it to create energy. Then there were those that believed they could fly into space and walk on the moon.

So many leaps of faith across history, it is hard to list them all.

I find it most interesting that men can so strongly believe that they can fly that they'd willingly strap themselves to an engine with wood strapped to it to prove it.

I sometimes wonder how people can believe in these other things so much; could enjoin a leap of faith, risking all in many cases. Yet, here we are today where medical mysteries and miracles occur everyday, yet so many will not believe that a man got up and walked away from his tomb, his death.

I don't find it hard to believe at all.

Of course, maybe I have more experience is leaps of faith than others.

No matter. I'll take that leap for all of us. Maybe someone will catch me landing on the otherside and decide it is ideal to make a leap of faith instead of staying tied to the ground?

Hard to know.

What I do know is that, on this day, a man called Jesus of Nazareth arose from the dead, walked among us and then ascended to his father.

If I can believe we walked on the moon, I think I can believe this happened, too.

3 comments:

riceburner147 said...

AMEN !

(just a small point, the "vinegar" offered to Jesus was really just cheap wine. One of the problems in translations. I couldnt imagine drinking vinegar, yuk !)

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

It does take a huge leap of faith to believe a man can walk from the tomb.

As much as it took to kill Rasputin and with the things we are learning of nanotechnology, string theory, and the mind sciences, it's not a huge leap of faith at all to a truly modern mind.

I'm not firmly convinced that the human custodians of Christian authority have kept Jesus' word inviolate of their own thinking, prejudices, and clouded judgment, but I think it is highly likely that the Jesus visitation was some sort of embassy from the Divine in some way.

I do remain agnostic because I'm not sure where the line can be drawn between what humans have fouled up, and what remains of the Divine embassy (as I see it to have been), and I can't even really be certain of things I haven't seen or experienced, but the possibility of it all would have to be acknowledged by anyone with a reasoning mind, especially in light of what we scientifically know to be possible today.

riceburner147 said...

ciggy: at some point, it all boils down to faith. As a believer in the reformed way of thinking about scripture this faith comes from God and we can only surrender and ask Him for it. Your comment on scripture having been influenced by humans is a reasonable point, to the natural mind. I believe that if there is a God that is all-powerful, He would be capable of getting His word to us thru the ages in an accurate form. (But thats just me :) Those Jewish scribes were buggers for good record keeping !

REALLY BAD JOKE

The Lord is on the cross and calls out to Peter three times, each time Peter is turned back by the crowd. Finally, after the fourth time that the Lord cries out for Peter, he struggles thru the crowd and makes it to His feet. Yes Lord, Peter asks, breathlessly ? The Lord replies, Hey Pete, I can see your house from up here.