Most people like winning. We like to celebrate a victory. So we like Easter. We love it! We see it as a celebration of Jesus’ victory over – over everything really, over sin, over death, over those who killed him. We really wish his victory had come sooner. We really wish there had been no Good Friday at all, just a glorious Easter. But no matter now. Easter will more than make up for Good Friday. We’re actually glad we had to wait only three days for it. We want victory, and we want it quickly. We want a positive result for everything. We want to be easy winners all the way.
We are too used to this story of Jesus as a winner. Since childhood, it has been our anaesthetic. It takes away our bad memories. We don’t like facing our failures. We don’t like facing Jesus’ failures. We really want to celebrate our victory, not just his!
There are questions here. Why didn’t he win sooner? We wonder why Jesus didn’t overcome all the resistance to him (as God, he surely could have done so). We wonder why he didn’t form an alliance with the university types. Why he didn’t make the priestly types (like Zachary, John the Baptist’s father) understand. Why he didn’t form a very large movement of sympathizers with the poor – including lots of different people, like pardoned sinners, healed people, Nicodemus the great Jewish sage, the Roman centurion, even Mrs. Pilate – in short, a positive dynamic across all the usual social gaps? He had been no great success as a teacher, or a diplomat, or a manipulator, or a consciousness raiser, or a community change agent. He began life badly, he ended it worse. He didn’t get a good result. Overall, he was not a success. Until Easter, that is. Then, he won!
We like lucid and decisive people, who win. We like it best when they win against all the odds. We imagine Jesus to be the greatest of them. We want to be one of them. [Malraux called him ‘the only anarchist who succeeded’.]
But - Jesus did not play that game. He did not try to convince Caesar, to argue with scribes, to show the High Priest what his real interest was. He did not try to win over the crowd. He had a completely different relation with that world, that world of success with force, with thought, with argument. He had a completely different perception of all that, of the ways of winning. He had a completely different scale of values and success was not the final criterion – not even close to the top of the scale. In his trials, he refused to make a case in his own defense. He does not play the game of self-affirmation and self-proclamation. He does not defend himself. ‘He, passing through the midst of them, went on his way.’ His way, not theirs.
I don’t think he likes the way we imagine him at Easter! He thinks perhaps that we are turning his resurrection into a victory-lap of honor, and he never ran one!
I am sure many of you are feeling I should not be saying things like this. Particularly on Easter Sunday! They are offensive to the way we live….
Wait a minute. He did rise, didn’t he? He didn’t stay dead. He changed death from a permanent condition into an interval of just three days. He relegated death into a temporary problem. He conquered it! He took its sting away. He won! Then he got on with the real thing in life, success, power, glory, winning. Through the church he has been doing th