We often are so eager to get to the Easter Lilies and the cries of “He is Risen”, that we forget the significance of what happened the Friday preceding Easter—the Crucifixion. Without the crucifixion there is no resurrection! Early Christians were known as the “people of the Cross”, not the Resurrection. God sent his Son into the world in the human form we know as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus revealed a God to us who is like a loving Father. He proclaimed the Kingdom of the God he called “Father”, and by his life and his teachings Jesus revealed what the characteristics of that Kingdom are. These characteristics turned the world upside down in his day. The Kingdom of God needed no temple system with its sacrifices and wealth for the priests and scribes. The Kingdom of God advocated for the poor, the outcast, the leper, the sinners and said that the “greatest among you shall be the servant of all.” That phrase about “servants” caused those who were powerful to be uneasy. The Kingdom of God, as Jesus proclaimed it, was subversive to the economic, social, religious, and political domination systems of the day. And so these systems combined to kill him! The same could happen in our day, and in fact has.
St. Anselm, back in the 11th Century came up with a reason that Jesus died on the cross in his “atonement theory”—-postulating that God’s righteousness had to be satisfied and that to atone for the sins of all humanity, God demanded that Jesus be sacrificed on the cross to “pay” for humanity’s sins. I find it difficult to believe that the God Jesus came to tell us about—a God of love for humanity and all creation—would demand an innocent human sacrifice to pay for our sins! No—-I believe that human sin crucified Jesus on that cross. Human greed, human lust for power, and human fear killed him. Human economic, social, religious and power systems combined to kill Jesus because these systems were threatened by his message of life in the Kingdom of God.
If Jesus came back today and preached and taught and acted toward the domination systems of our day, the result would be the same—-they would kill him—-perhaps not on a cross, but would do so by refusing to even consider everything that he taught and preached and did. His cross today would be a cross of indifference—but the effect today is the same—-it silences Jesus once and for all so that the demands of the kingdom of God will not infringe on our comfort, our wealth, our ambition for power, and our economic domination by the few over the many. God did not demand Jesus’ death, he was the messenger that human beings killed because of his message that threatened their comfortable way of life.
“He is Risen!” we will shout this coming Easter Sunday! I praise God for the promise of the resurrection and the eternal life through that resurrection which is assured to followers of the Christ due to that resurrection!