If we look at Jesus, and we say he has something to do with God, we have to see that the God to whom Jesus points wanted Jesus to be crucified and therefore wants something which we cannot imagine on our own.
Which brings us back to what Peter was talking about 40 days after Jesus was crucified. “You killed him, and that’s what God wanted,” Peter said, “But God raised him up from the dead, and we are all witnesses to that fact. So you should know for certain that Jesus, whom you crucified, is both Lord and Christ!”
See: Peter is saying that this empty tomb changes the way we have to see the world.
Some people might see that as a set up for a great movie about zombies, right? You know: George Romero has made a career out inventing the consequences of a world where the dead come back from the grave and want to eat the living. For about 2 hours at a time, we can believe it good enough to get a good scare — or maybe a good laugh. We can suspend our disbelief and draw conclusions from it — in a way, we can have faith in a movie long enough for it to do what we think it is trying to do.
But here’s what you should consider: if we can understand what it means to have our world-view changed even briefly by believing in a movie long enough to get creeped-out by the zombies in it, we have to see what Peter was saying to the Jews — because he wasn’t asking them to suspend their disbelief: he was telling them things they had witnessed for themselves.
And the Israelis at Pentecost got it right away — because as soon as Peter had said all that, the account in Acts says, “they were cut to the heart.” They were profoundly sorry for what they had done. And in one moment they changed from people who were sort of mocking or shaming a bunch of guys who they thought were drunk, into people who were asking the question, “what can we do? Is there any hope for us?” So Peter gave them some instructions, but he also said this to them: “God is making a big promise here — a promise for you who are here, for your children who are not yet born, and for anyone who ever hears this news: because God is calling a people to himself!”
Listen to me carefully: Jesus died on a cross. That wasn’t something that was accidentally or unexpectedly done to him: it’s what he came to do in the first place. And the reason he did it wasn’t to show us an example of martyrdom, or a way to kick off a great idea by giving it your all by speaking some kind of “truth” to “power”. Jesus died on a cross because God was making a promise to all people. Some folks I have read say that this is the “objectivity” of Gospel — that is, it is an event which happens in a specific time and place which we can refer to historically and without regard to ourselves. That’s what I’ve been telling you for the last few installments in a very long way. But the “objectivity” is almost irrelevant unless it is happening to someone and for a particular reason.
So let me say this plainly: this Jesus was crucified for the sake of everyone who would believe, but that fact is not merely an event apart from our real lives. It is an event which calls people out of the world as it was before, and into the real world — the place where Jesus is factually raised from the dead for a particular reason.
And I hope it’s not too late to point this out to you: this is what God is jealous about.