Jesus was into change
July 31, 2006
I was reading today’s Daily Office Gospel lesson this morning, and it occurred to me that Jesus wasn’t one to sit around and long for the past.
In fact, his activities, which got him into lots of trouble with the authorities, showed over and over again that he wanted to change the status quo. He didn’t like the system, he didn’t like the way the religious authorities were doing things, and he wanted to change it.
Just like I wrote in my post yesterday, change isn’t easy. In this case, what the reading from Matthew reminded me of is that people get pretty upset when you go around changing things. Yesterday one of the things I mentioned was the burning of Jan Hus in 1415 for supporting non-Latin translation of the Bible. That is what I thought of when reading of the torture of Jesus today in Matthew.
The high priest and Jewish council couldn’t stand the change that Jesus was proposing, so they lashed out against Jesus. The Romans got on board and carried it one step further. The “mob rule” completely took over and threw out all reason when sentencing Jesus Christ instead of Barrabus.
And, from a strictly historical point of view, the funny thing is that the death of the founder of Christianity did nothing to stop the movement of “The Way.” As we know, it is one of the world’s largest religions, so the Jewish and Roman authorities failed in their attempt to stop further change by stamping it out with annihilation.
When I discuss this historical perspective with more orthodox folk, I sometimes get responses that I don’t quite understand- feedback that has to do with somehow moving people through a preset plan in order to get to the crucifiction for all of our sins so that we can find the resurrection and grace for all of humanity. (I guess that’s based somehow in a fear that if Caiaphus had accepted Jesus then he wouldn’t have been crucified and we wouldn’t have grace? That’s a little too self-serving for me, and doesn’t rely enough on trust in God to work it all out somehow.)
Of course grace from resurrection is the crux of traditional Christianity. But I would think it is important to look at how we got there. It isn’t simply the execution of a plan that makes the crucifiction and resurrection meaningful. For me, one of the things we need to examine is the predictable pattern of human behavior, that when introduced with something wonderful but something new, humans automatically reject it in favor of the status quo. Even the disciples had their moments of rejection and disbelief– Peter certainly had his moments.
In other words, I don’t think that Caiaphus was just destined to be born at the wrong time to be high priest. I think he had a choice to either change the teaching of the church and embrace a new way or to stick to the same ol’ same ol’ and kill the Messiah. We all know how the story ends. What’s the lesson there?
For me, its the same as I wrote yesterday. We can’t be too willing to kill, get angry, hold our ground, push with vitriol, or be too confident that our position is right. We just don’t know. Change happens. And Jesus was into it. I don’t think we should keep our eyes closed to that, or we may end up with the same historical judgement as Caiaphus and Pilate.