Approaching Easter

Meditations for Holy Week, from Matthew’s Gospel.

As we approach Easter, you may appreciate some readings on Jesus’ final week: Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday.

If you can only do one, try the first one, Two Powers. It surveys Matthew 21–28 from a fresh angle: the conflict between temple and king.

These two powers, both anointed by God, were often in conflict in ancient Israel. After the exile, God restored the temple but not the kingship. This disparity was the main theme of the prophet Zechariah: two olive branches (Joshua and Zerubbabel), with the high priest wearing the crown until the king finally rides in on a donkey. Then the shepherd is struck down, before God’s reign is restored to all the earth. Several times Jesus quotes Zechariah to explain what’s happening to him. Holy week makes brilliant sense from this perspective: it’s all about people rejecting God’s authority, and how he rescues the world in the Son he raises up.

If you want more, choose what’s relevant for you from these posts on Jesus’ final week according to Matthew’s Gospel:

Continue reading “Approaching Easter”

The counter-intuitive wisdom of the cross

An Easter meditation

The trouble with the cross is that it’s a counter-intuitive solution for the sin of the world.

The evil in God’s earthly realm is the rejection of his divine authority, people grasping power for themselves and using that power to deceive and dominate each other. It offends our sense of justice, so we want revenge. We can’t sit by and do nothing, but taking matters into our own hands and fighting back only perpetrates the cycle of violence.

We want God to act against evil, to put down his foot and crush it so it can’t continue. God doesn’t. God doesn’t act violently to overcome violence. God doesn’t use force against force. God does not control evil by doing evil against evil-doers.

So what does God do to deal with the injustice in his realm? He enters his unjust realm as one of us. He meets face-to-face with the rebellion against his reign, the people who will do anything to take divine power into their own hands. God confronts evil, from a position of powerlessness. Continue reading “The counter-intuitive wisdom of the cross”

What difference does the resurrection make?

How does Jesus’ resurrection make a difference for humanity?

Open Ephesians 2:5-6.

The resurrection is the moment in history when everything changed, for everyone.

Jesus was not the first to be put to death unjustly. That kind of thing happens every day. One of Judah’s kings is said to have filled Jerusalem with innocent blood (2 Kings 21:16).

What was unique in Jesus’ case was what happened three days later. When they went to wrap his dead body with spices, it wasn’t there. God had intervened. Earthly courts had authorized his execution, but a higher court exonerated him and restored him. Continue reading “What difference does the resurrection make?”

Journey to joy (Good Friday)

When God experienced our pain, he was restoring our joy.

There’s the grief you feel when you hoped your team would win, and they lost.

Then there’s deep grief — the grief you feel when you lose someone.

Jesus’ disciples faced that grief. They expected him to save the world. Jesus had a brave agenda for a new world, an agenda that challenged the people in power.

They expected a showdown, but they didn’t expect Jesus to lose. They didn’t expect him to lose his life.

Continue reading “Journey to joy (Good Friday)”