Imagine that the God of the universe arranged to stage a magnificent pageant – a cosmic drama – that would right the wrongs of the world and change the course of history. The stage would be set with the most intense consequences and most elaborate circumstances.
Imagine that this drama would unfold in such a way that God’s covenant people would be delivered and their prayers would be answered. The only way that such a drama could be staged would be that God’s own self would have to be a player! The generation that experienced this engagement – and the generations that would follow – came to believe that the divine was at work in the central actor in such a unique way that this new character was worthy of worship as God.
The above scenario is exactly what the Easter is to the church. God staged drama so cataclysmic that nothing (we proclaim) would ever be the same. Humanity’s relationship to the divine and even they way we practice religion – not to mention who gets to practice the religion – was radically altered. In fact, a new religion was born with new scriptures and new methods and even new truths.
The central event, the climax, of this pageant was the violent death of the central character and his eventual vindication in life conquering death and the systems of domination in religion and politics.
In Christ, God exposed the violent and fraudulent scheme of scapegoating when ‘the one who knew no sin became sin for us’. Something happened in the heart and person of the Godhead when Christ died a martyr and scapegoat. The dark events on this little blue planet we call earth had cosmic ramifications. Creation and all that had gone wrong since Eden was being deemed with value again. Sin itself was being destroyed and the life of the ages was being made available for all creation – past and forever.
When Jesus was lifted up on the cross, God lifted a mirror to show humanity its true face.
The violence of the cross and the political/religious trial that led up to it unmasked the authorities and institutions of power. Our violence and blaming of the other was exposed – as if God was saying “do you see what you do? You do this over and over again, lashing out at each other with blame and cruelty and bloodshed. You even do this to me! Then you claim to do it in my name and for my glory … Stop it.”
“No one needs to be treated like this anymore. No more scapegoats. No more violence in my name and for my sake. This has gone far enough and I am putting an end to this … It is finished.”
And with that he breathed his last and gave up his spirit – according to the scriptures.
Let that set in.
Now let’s ask a second question. What if God staged this grand pageant and even participated in this cosmic drama … and we missed it.
Is it possible that we as humanity and as Christians in particular could have seen all of this, organized a yearly remembrance of it, written songs about it, created ceremonies and rituals to enact every week and then proceed to reinforce and re-entrench that very thing that drama was meant to expose?
It that even possible?
Could it be that we were visited by the divine in a unique and particular way, that we received that King of Glory and then turned around to set up the very structures and systems of violence and domination that were exposed in Jesus’ way? It seems unimaginable.
We proclaim, worship and claim to serve a God who became humble as a servant and even unto death (Philippians 2) to unmask the powers that be and show a different way to be in the world. Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily and to follow this example.
Jesus died on the cross not just for our sin but because of it. We needed a savior to save us from ourselves and this vicious cycle of aggression and violence we perpetuate , sometimes in God’s name. We killed the Prince of Peace but God vindicated the victim and by God’s mighty love and sacrifice destroyed the need to ever do this to anyone else.
The scapegoat mechanism was unmasked as God held up a mirror to humanity and exposed the destructive and unending cycle of violence for political stability, national security or religious purity. The great drama has shown us the conclusion of this damnable way of thinking: we do this is God’s name and we even did to the Son of God.
This never has to happen again. The lesson of the Easter drama is that Life itself has ruined these cycles of death and destruction so that we can stop perpetuating this unsatisfying and unproductive way of treating each other.
It is finished.