What if…

Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”   ~N.T. Wright, “Surprised by Hope”

Even Jesus’ closest friends and followers didn’t see it coming. One of them agreed to turn Jesus over for 30 pieces of silver (Mat 26:14) and all the others–yes, ALL of them–deserted him when the pressure mounted (Matt 26:31).  Clearly they had been wrong.  Jesus was not the Messiah that they had hoped for.  He was dead.  They had seen it.  His skin was torn to shreds, making him barely recognizable.  He was too weak to even carry his own cross (Matt 27:32).  This crazy, wonderful, but sadly unfulfilled period of their lives was over.  They would never forget it, to be sure…but the memories would always be tinged with regret and disappointment.

“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.”  ~A.W. Tozer, “Preparing for Jesus’ Return

This past Friday night we were reading Scripture together as a family and I played a little “What if…” as I sometimes like to do.  What if Jesus had not been obedient to the Father?  What if he had not been willing to carry this heavy burden?  What if Peter, after turning his back, would not have come back to Jesus?  What if Peter just ran away never to be seen again or, even worse, had followed the path of Judas, and ended his own life?  What if Judas had not ended his life?  What if Jesus had the opportunity to stand face to face once again with Judas, as he did with Peter?

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”   ~Pope John Paul II

We’ll never know the answers to such questions.  What we do know, however, is that through Christ the way of salvation has been opened and made a possibility for all–for those who came before him and all generations who have followed, those who have grown up with his name in their ears and those who have never heard his name spoken, those who hear his name as sweet blessing and those who have been conditioned to hear his name as blasphemy.

Jesus sits at the table with all of these, offering his body and his blood, just as he did to Judas…to Peter…to me…and to you.  None are beyond his reach.

And for that we can all say:
Hallelujah!  He is risen!

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