Sunday, June 10, 2012

the surprise of pardon

I saw Jesus die from a distance.  

These were the festival days. Growing up, I recalled the release of one prisoner each year—Rome’s identification with our Passover.  You can call it a political game, if you want. In either case, there was a gesture of pardon, a chance to claim a second life.  It was a good time to be a criminal; how much less could one expect favor for the innocent?

Not Jesus.  Condemnation was pronounced. Death by crucifixion.

I was shocked. How could this be?

Jesus had done nothing wrong but he did make one mistake: he angered the powerful. He extolled the widow’s mite and disdained the rich man’s wealth.  Surely the afflicted were guilty of sin. Otherwise, why would they be blind, leprous, and lame? God’s judgment was plain for all to see.

But Jesus treated them as if they’d done nothing wrong. And when he knew they had done something wrong, he forgave them.  He had no right.  We don’t learn to follow God rightly if we are exempted from punishment when we sin.

That is what we thought. But Jesus said we can’t follow God if we’re not exempted from punishment. Of course we’re guilty. We’re all guilty. That’s why we all need forgiveness.

This upset our whole way of life. So, the powerful wanted him dead.

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