The Odd Ring of Truth

There's something so counter-intuitive about Jesus...and especially the last week of his life on earth. I mean, if you and I were to write the story, there would be triumphalism all over the place: he'd have ridden into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday perched high on a mighty steed, a warhorse! The crowds would've coalesced around his charisma; Jerusalem's elite would've rallied to his cause; why, even the Romans would've cowered before him. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jason Statham, Daniel Craig, tough guys like these would've had nothing on Jesus.

And on this day, the Thursday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday as we're accustomed to calling it, Jesus would've had a victory meal...and those disciples would've washed their OWN feet, and his too. No somber foreshadowing; just joyous, anticipatory celebration!

And all that stuff in the Garden of Gethsemane, are you kidding me? There would've been last minute plans for sure, logistics locked into place for the big overthrow to come: in the mighty power of God the corrupt religious leaders would be put down, the Roman occupying armies crushed. Good Friday would've been obviously good--a victorious battle, decisive, overwhelming in the power of the hosts of heaven. Easter might've come two days early.

That's how we'd write the script.

But that's not what happened. Palm Sunday showed a humble king, mounted on a donkey, his feet barely clearing the ground. That's not high and mighty. The crowds were fickle as crowds usually are. The Last Supper was full of anxiety and foreboding and yet a strange calm covered Jesus. A friend betrayed him in his moment of need--and he was so anxious in the Garden that he sweated blood and prayed for God to deliver him from the suffering to come. This "king" was arrested, then he shuffled off in chains, the ultimate perp walk. The religious leaders trumped up false charges and no one defended him. The Roman governor handed him over to be tortured. He was crowned with thorns; his throne was a rough wooden cross. He was mocked and pierced and died. He even felt God had abandoned him and he said it out loud. This is NOT how we would write the story! Then he was buried in a borrowed tomb. Bad ending.

But then, on Easter morning, the stone covering to the tomb was rolled back by an earthquake and an angel. He wasn't dead--he was alive! Uh, wait a minute...

The story of Jesus' last week, in fact, the whole story of Jesus, for that matter, has a human implausibility about it. We couldn't have made this stuff up. It's just not like us. It's counter-intuitive. For that very reason, it has an odd ring of truth to it, doesn't it? And when you see how the scared fishermen who followed Jesus rose up after the resurrection to boldly proclaim the faith, when you see how they spread the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire (talk about implausible!), and especially when you see Peter, James, John, Paul and others go to their deaths out of loyalty to their Lord--well, this just defies our imagination.

That's why it's worth pondering again--and getting inside the story yourself.