Merry Christmas, Invincible Jesus ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, December 17, 2007

Merry Christmas, Invincible Jesus

I have been thinking about the way Jesus offers people a choice to be for or against him and then takes the haters and uses them anyway. It’s not that the choice wasn’t real. It’s that Jesus saw it coming before he made the universe out of nothing and thoughtfully decided he had a use for it.

Look at the Pharisees. They were so ignorant of Scripture that in their cruel antagonism to Christ, they made the hero-will-rise predictions of the old prophets come true. Call it dramatic irony.

Breathtaking is God, in the way he makes his enemies do what he wants “against their wills”—and at the same time, not. He makes his enemies do precisely what he wants by doing precisely what they want, which is infinitely more difficult than coercion.

Look at the Sanhedrin, the Jewish inner circle of Jesus' day, where mafia-like decisions were made: blood deals cut, expediency weighed on scales, lives played like card tricks. The Sanhedrin decided it would be better for their people if Jesus died, so they paid off a crowd of thugs to perjure themselves in court, and Jesus was found guilty. Did that work well for them? No. Jesus subversively climbed the cross , causing mere Judaism to implode.

Now look at the Roman death squad, the gurus of murder, crucifying the revolutionary Christ, deleting this purported threat to Caesar. Watching nearby, the Father commented, “Good luck with that.” When Jesus reversed his martyrdom three days later, he sparked the movement that would bleed the Coliseum dry and override the reign of the Caesars.

Look at the devil, choking with laughter at this unthinkable divine death, this sovereign slip-up. He’s singing Mementi mori to celebrate this morbid joke, but in another part of the heavens, the angels are laughing. God’s “mistake” will kill death, neuter pain, and doom the devil to an eternal vacation at Lake of Fire Resort. Satan, how do you like them apples? Satan?

All this to say, examine your options carefully, and then claim your prerogative as a human: weighty choices. Not all decisions are created equal. Some seem small, most are not, and some will ultimately define you. In the economy of God’s will, all will ultimately prove useful—but some of them will bless their makers and some will destroy them.

This is because God leaves you free to choose against him, free to cause pain. But if you do, in the end you’ll be like Greek Oedipus, who discovered that his best intentions led unswervingly to the worst of catastrophes. Except in Christ’s story, it’s your worst intentions that will lead unswervingly to the best of eucatastrophes—just like the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, the Roman death squad, and the devil.

I once made this point to an atheist, who was arguing with me about God, and he accused me of being unfair and called me names. I didn’t blame him. I told him that I understood his feelings of irritation. Being God's enemy is hard work. Think about it: He has many enemies but no nemesis.

As God’s opponent, you get to have your hatred and your choices, but no vengeance, no satisfaction. It’s like having your chocolate cake, and then discovering that it’s not really cake at all, but a dried out fajita, a case of mistaken identity, and you can’t eat it after all.

Being God’s enemy is, by definition, a life of divine utility and personal futility. No wonder God’s opponents hate him. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Philip Pullman—all will have their theistic uses. At God’s nod, the world’s story is quietly working against them.

Of course, those of us who are not fighting a battle against Jesus simply say Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Christmas is a reminder that when God the baby is revealed in brilliant eternal splendor, brighter than the sun, more beautiful than the Northern lights, atheists will fall on their faces and groan at how he satirized their plans for his demise.

When we say Merry Christmas, we celebrate a happy irony: Jesus the invincible, born in an animal trough, death-defeater, empire-eraser, competitor-conquistador—who puts his enemies to use whether they like it or not.

Like an unappreciated GI, this Jesus quietly stamped his initials on earth when he lived here here the first time. When he appears again, it will be to set off fireworks and collect his property.

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Benjamin said...

Mastery of misery is to make money from misers...Christ has proven Himself king of the cranks more times than Ebenezer gives out turkeys and hams to a cripple's family this time of year. Isn't beautiful when He turns His harshest critics into kindly caregivers? Thank the Lord for Lewis!

Thanks for the encouraging reminder! God bless!

Andy said...

And what a day when He comes back to collect said property!

You make a good of the more difficult things for us to understand as Christians is how God uses everyone and everything around us - non-believers included - for His Glory and for His Purpose.

Good stuff.

Bernard Shuford said...

Great post, Ariel.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife