At this time of year, there’s a lot of talk about a dead man coming back to life. A man called Jesus. We’re used to the story now, but when it first happened it, shocked people. But perhaps the biggest surprise of all was what he said.
The first recorded words out of Jesus’ mouth to his disciples following the resurrection weren’t, “It’s time for war, who’s with me?” or “I’m going to get the guys who did this”.
They were in fact, “Peace be with you”.
(Sorry to all of those out there who envision Jesus as Liam Neeson in a tunic.)
These words, seemingly insignificant, were loaded with relevant meaning and symbolism for the people who first heard them. As well as the rest of us who can only read about them a couple of millennia later.
Then, as now, resurrecting from the dead wasn’t something that happened all the time. What may surprise you is that resurrection wasn’t something Jesus had a monopoly on.
In fact, there were many stories and mythologies of demigods and revolutionaries and fake messiahs reappearing onto the physical plane after dying a horrendous death. You don’t have to go through too many pages of Google searches to find this out for yourself.
But what was unique about Jesus’ bodily, physical resurrection was the message that came along with it. A message of peace and nonviolence – two words many of us overlook.
His victory over physical death was a subversive, culturally disruptive declaration against the man-made fear-based systems of violence, imperialism, religiosity, sacrifice, and class dominance that had been in circulation since Cain murdered Abel.
It was a punch in the gut for Roman occupation and oppression (politicians) and to the religious who profited from a sacrificial system that God never desired in the first place.
The resurrection of Jesus was the crowning point of a message meant to stop the bloodshed of the oppressed and transform the oppressors. A message that because of the resurrection we all have a chance to break with the past to live a new life; a life of hope, not desperation, of relationship, not religion, of indiscriminate love, not hate. This was the inauguration of a new kingdom, a new system. One based on peace, not fear and retribution.
A system meant to rehumanise a civilisation that had distorted its original identity through centuries of retaliatory violence, retribution, racism, sexism, elitism, and twisted religious practice, much of which stemmed from a false, toxic belief of an angry, distant, and bloodthirsty God. Instead, in Jesus, we get a God who meets us face to face and says, “peace be with you”.
I’d take Jesus over Liam Neesom any day.
Writer / Master of Arts in New Testament Interpretation (Northern Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL) / Unpolished Exegete / Husband / Daddy / Make-believe Astronaut
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