Cracks in the system

Imagine the scene. The disciples of Jesus huddled in secret. In despair, moping, their hopes shattered.

Apr 01, 2016

By Anil Netto
"Imagine the scene. The disciples of Jesus huddled in secret. In despair, moping, their hopes shattered. Their world had come tumbling down.

They had been sold a vision of a new kingdom that could change the world, but now, its prime mover, its inspiration had been literally hung out to dry.

It is not easy to be courageous and brave in an oppressive system, especially in a complex environment. For the followers of Jesus, they had to contend with not only the conservative religious authorities but also the Roman colonial rulers.

When push came to shove on that first Good Friday, the men who had vowed to stand by Jesus fled — almost all of them, except for John, the disciple Jesus loved. To their eternal credit, the faithful and courageous women, followers of Jesus, stayed with him to the very end and tended to his dead body.

The role of the women — quiet, stoic, dignified — at Good Friday and Easter cannot be understated. Not only did they stay to the end, one of them, Mary Magdalene, was rewarded by being the first witness to the Resurrection, ahead of the male apostles.

These followers were up against a hugely oppressive system — which even Jesus was seemingly unable to stand up to. No wonder the disciples fled. If someone as powerful as Jesus could be so cruelly treated by the system, even executed, what hope would they have?

But something was already happening from that first Good Friday to Easter.

Matthew chapter 27: 51 And suddenly, the veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, the rocks were split, 52 the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy people rose from the dead. The control of religious power by the temple authorities — this attempt to closet God and use his name as a tool to exploit the people — had been cracked wide open.

Cracks also manifested themselves in the Sanhedrin, a sort of supreme court of justice, dominated by the aristocratic Sadducees, who had come into a neat political arrangement with the Romans.

The wealthy Joseph of Arimathea did not agree with the actions of the Sanhedrin in the case of Jesus even though he was a council member. He appeared to be a man who stood for justice and it turns out, he secretly supported Jesus. In an act of courage, he asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus in an unused tomb that he owned.

In this, he was assisted by another notable character, Nicodemus. This was the same Nicodemus who had a private conversation with Jesus about being born again or born from above.

Now, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was a dissenting member of the Sanhedrin and he spoke up for Jesus among his Pharisee colleagues (in John 7:51): “But surely our Law does not allow us to pass judgement on anyone, without first giving him a hearing, and discovering what he is doing?”

Another crack in the system manifested itself, this time among the Romans: first it was the centurion standing in awe at the foot of the cross, later the conversion of Paul (who, though a Jew, was a free citizen of the ruling Roman Empire by virtue of being born in Tarsus), and the conversion of centurion Cornelius, and his associates).

These were among the first major cracks in the religious and political system, recorded in Scriptures.

By 70AD, about four decades after Resurrection, the Sadducees disappeared with the destruction of the Temple. The Roman Empire (western) lasted a bit longer, until 476AD, while the eastern side of the Empire lasted somewhat longer until 1453.

What this tells us is that an oppressive and corrupt system might last for a while, but then cracks, conflicts and power struggles emerge and it will invariably decline.

What we can learn from Jesus’ resurrection is that no matter how hopeless the situation might appear, a corrupt and oppressive system will not stand the test of time. It may seem all powerful and formidable for a time.

But it is no match for those who believe in the power of truth and love and justice unleashed by the Spirit of the Risen Jesus and work towards the realisation of his kingdom.

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