Death will not contain Jesus; he will be raised.
It is this that makes all the difference for us. Jesus death shatters the Evil that had held us in its grasp. In the wake of the resurrection, Evil has no power over us except the power we are willing to give it.
This moment as told in today’s gospel, when Jesus unveils the near future, describing his death, is a turning point in his life’s story. Jesus’ actions and teachings have drawn the attention of the civil and religious leaders in Jerusalem who are becoming increasing concerned about Him and His effect on the people. They fear Him because He is beloved and revered and they don’t trust charismatic leaders who might upset the apple cart. And just before this episode, Peter, responding to Jesus’ question; “who do you say that I am?” has responded with, “you are the Messiah, the son of the living God.”
Things are moving along and Jesus recognizes that the end of his earthly life and ministry is approaching and so he begins to prepare for what they are about to face.
But the disciples, as usual, aren’t really prepared for Jesus is telling them. And this exchange here between Peter and Jesus is an essential piece of how that end will play out. We hear of how Peter responds; how he must have regretted it later, but the disciple I really want to know about is Judas.
Because I think that the future Jesus foretells here may be the moment when Judas loses faith with Jesus and the seeds of his betrayal are planted. The gospels don’t tell us much about Judas or his past. I get the sense he was someone who preferred action over words though. He is called Judas Iscariot, and though we aren’t really clear on the meaning of Iscariot, at least some scholars believe it suggests that he was part of the Iscarii, a Jewish group who believed that only violent action would force the Romans and their collaborators out of Judea. They were what we today would call terrorists.
The story of the Israelites throughout the what we call the Old Testament tell of God’s power to scatter and defeat their enemies; of how the spirit of God might descend upon a deliverer and crush those who would unjustly rule over them. Everyone expected the “messiah” to be just such a deliverer, and we see that throughout the gospels. the disciples expect to be the new lords in an Israel cleansed of its oppressors.
But here Jesus says plainly (again) that that isn’t where He is going. He could; if that’s really how God operated, but it isn’t, as Jesus tells us and shows us over and over again. They are going to Jerusalem, he will undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and he will be killed.
And that isn’t what Judas signed up for. He wants his revenge, he wants to see what he thinks is godly order restored. He wants his enemies defeated – more than defeated – destroyed, utterly. Judas is an idealist and his impatience with injustice has driven him into an absolutist stance that will brook no half measures and this Jesus, on whom he has pinned his hopes has just said he will not deliver. The way of Jesus, Judas likely surmised, was a hopeless dead end, worse than useless, it was self-defeating.
To be honest, I can relate to the position of Judas here. I tend towards idealism myself and am regularly saddened and frustrated at the inability of the world around me to live up to its potential. And the world is full of selfishness, and greed, and hatred, and injustice. Who of hasn’t harbored, at one time or another, a real desire to see someone get their comeuppance? Shouldn’t the wicked pay? Shouldn’t evil be punished?
But there’s a part of what Jesus has to say, that none of the disciples seem to hear; or art least if they heard it, they failed to grasp its significance. Jesus says they are going to Jerusalem. He says that will be arrested and he will suffer. He says he will die. He says all that and the disciples lose it. But he also says; “and on the third day be raised.”
Death will not contain Jesus; he will be raised.
It is this that makes all the difference for us. Jesus death shatters the Evil that had held us in its grasp. In the wake of the resurrection, Evil has no power over us except the power we are willing to give it. Our ideals, though surely planted in virtuous intention, are a vulnerable window of temptation that can lead us down and back into evil’s grip.
There is a place for righteous anger. It can be the furnace of our faith that keeps us going and allows us to persevere in continuing Jesus’ mission and living in Jesus’ example.
But the power of God, as Jesus showed us in life, death, and resurrection, does not come like an armored host, swords drawn. It comes like a baby. It comes from quiet resolve, it comes as the courage to do the right thing, to do what God asks no matter what those around us think.
I think Paul describes the life of following Christ better than I could ever describe;
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.