Risen: A hidden power is unleashed

Not a few people tend to underestimate what was set into motion by the Resurrection of Jesus.

Apr 21, 2017

By Anil Netto
Not a few people tend to underestimate what was set into motion by the Resurrection of Jesus.

For many people, the story of Jesus’ ministry ends with his Resurrection. Many of us tend to look back at Jesus’ time on earth and see it as something unchanging, a brief intervention by God in human history, culminating with his Passion, death and Resurrection — and that was that: all that we have to hold on to, remembered through devotion and our familiar rituals.

But the Resurrection is not the end of the story. In reality, it is only the beginning — the story of the beginning of a new Creation.

Jesus had so much to reveal to his followers that he couldn’t possibly tell them everything in a way they could fully grasp what was about to unfold. The Gospel writers understood, compelling the author of John to write at the end: “There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written.”

Jesus didn't even try and write anything down himself. Sure he could have written a book about his life, his memoirs, so to speak.

But then, he had so much to reveal. It was a project — his proclamation of the kingdom of God — articulated through several basic principles and then set it into motion, vindicated through the Resurrection.

From the Gospels, it certainly looked as if Jesus (and by extension the Father) cared more for the people’s suffering and burdens than their sinfulness and human shortcomings and lack of faith — even though that may have pained and frustrated him many times.

Certainly, in his teaching of the Last Judgement, Jesus lent weight to this impression — the concern for suffering —when he said those who come to the aid of the suffering and the oppressed indeed are coming to his own aid.

The Resurrection is the vindication of Jesus’ ministry on earth — God’s seal of approval for the unleashing of the forces that would propel the reign of the kingdom of God.

Jesus lived at a time when people were widely encouraged to believe in the deification of the Roman Emperors. Thus, to proclaim that Jesus is Lord who heralds a new kingdom of values — values that were fundamentally at odds with those of the Empire — was a real seditious threat. And many early Christians paid the price for their allegiance to a kingdom that was “not of this world.”

Jesus showed that speaking for the cause of righteousness (justice) and truth could cost a person dearly. But it was a price he willingly paid with his life. The Resurrection was the Father’s vindication of his sacrifice for the cause — propelled by pure divine love and justice and compassion that was incarnated in him. It was the surest sign we have of what are the concerns and the priorities of the Father.

A new Creation is possible based on the radical values that Jesus proclaimed. In society today, many believe that real change can only take place when those perpetuating oppression in society are removed. Unfortunately, their removal won’t change the unjust values propping up the domination systems of our time. Without any change in the set of values underpinning society, any change is likely to be fleeting and illusory, and a new set of oppressors will take over before long.

There was no shortage of people who were impatient for change during the era of Jesus. Political messiahs and revolutionaries sprouted every now and then amidst the ferment. But they failed to have any impact — primarily because they failed to articulate an alternative vision of society and a new set of values.

If we want to bring about real and lasting change in our society, we have to confront the set of values that allows such oppression to sustain itself — like Jesus did. He set about fleshing out the values of the kingdom of God. The Word was made Flesh.

When Jesus was brought to trial, the interrogation veered uneasily around the issues of power, kingship, kingdoms… all of which were brought up to gauge if Jesus was a threat to Roman rule, thus warranting an execution by crucifixion.

But when questioned by the Roman prefect of Judea, Jesus responded, “It is you who say that I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”

And what was this truth? Jesus had spoken of a Father who saw the suffering in Creation and expounded a set values in the Sermon of the Mount: In the Beatitudes, he proclaimed a radical new set of values (eg Blessed are the poor, blessed are the peace-makers, etc) that was fundamentally at odds with those that sustained the Roman Empire, which was based on power and greed.

These values of the Empire secured an uneasy peace achieved through military conquest and the subjugation of ordinary people.

In today’s world, if we want deep and lasting change, we too must confront the values that underpin modern systems of domination based on injustice, oppression and greed in all its manifestations. This domination system, based on raw greed and power, has resulted in environmental degradation, the exploitation of workers, income inequality and the takeover of the Commons for private profit.

No matter what the odds are in our struggle to realise this new kingdom, we can be secure in the knowledge that the Resurrection has vindicated Jesus’ proclamation, and ushering in, of a new kingdom based on the radical set of values his Father holds dear.

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