Today is Good Friday, and I’m reminded that to Christians, it is the holiest time of the year. It is the day that traditionally, the crucifixion narrative is read. Beyond the obvious, that is, that it is a horrific way to die, it is the hatred and fear of the mob who stood against him that frightened me the most about this story. What was it that could turn a crowd, who just days before were singing songs of adulation and waving palm fronds in his wake as he entered Jerusalem? Was it the machinations of the church leaders and Romans who turned the public against the one who had healed and supported, taught and fed them during his short ministry? I often asked myself the question, “Would I have been like them, or like Peter who denied him three times?” Perhaps it is because of the grace I have been given that I see and understand the reasons why mob rule is so dangerous, and the horror and evil that individuals en mass are capable of when fueled with angry rhetoric (especially if the source is religious). All of us are susceptible, and if you think you’re exempt and never worried about how you would respond to mob anger, I don’t think you’re being totally honest with yourself.
So with Jesus’ great sacrifice, where are the effects of this super power we celebrate on Easter Sunday? Is the extent of it held in the future promise of eternal life? Or is there a mechanism we gain to transform the world around us in the moment? I continually struggle with what makes me, as a Christian, so different than other humans, religious or not. What makes me visibly different? I truly believe, that with seeing and hearing through the gospel message I am meant to, challenged to, radiate heaven in a way that shows I fully understand what Easter means: that they will know I am his disciple because of how I love. We understand Jesus sacrifice because we are gifted with holding the Kingdom of God within us…
Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”
This is where it gets tricky for me. There is so much noise and dissonance from churches around the world that not only contradict the idea that “the Kingdom of God is within” and what it is supposed to look like, but actually subvert it by redefining what heaven is through exclusive and authoritarian methods, not unlike those in power did at the time Jesus was crucified. The corruption that often lies hidden behind the righteous in power is why I continue to look to how Jesus radiated the Kingdom…extending mercy, the relinquishment of earthly power, the focus on those in need, loving your neighbor and enemy, loving God more than money, and kind civil rhetoric. That isn’t the rhythm of many professed Christians who radiate superiority, judgement, and yes, mob anger and hatred, the kinds of behaviors that Jesus deplored in his day. I think of Jesus’ quiet power standing broken and beaten in front of Pontius Pilate, refusing to be bated and justify his questions and ignorant assumptions, his quiet strength in carrying the cross and his mercy once on the cross to those criminals beside him. That is how in the worst of circumstances we radiate heaven.
Like any superpower, grace must be continually exercised, and expressed. Jesus made clear the road to heaven was to treat others as if they were indeed him. He also promised that he will come again and until then we must radiate the Kingdom of Heaven like children do or never expect to exist there. Beyond righteous behavior, we must be willing to sell all we have and follow him, and when we feel unworthy, be reminded that what is impossible for humans is forever possible with God.