It’s difficult nowadays to appreciate Scripture in its original context. Jesus’ story of birth, ministry, death and resurrection is so ingrained in our lives that the message often loses its revolutionary sheen. For those of us born Christian, it’s simply a story—however powerful and central in our faith—that we accept.
It’s easy to forget that when we say, “Jesus was born in a manger,” the equivalent today would roughly be someone being born on the street. Or that Jesus’ ministry basically amounted to a grassroots revolution against the contemporary religious establishment—try to imagine what this would look like today.
Perhaps most alarming is Jesus’ death. He was tortured and executed alongside other convicted criminals. It’s unsettling to picture how we today might view such a man.
John records that Jesus, after he died, was wrapped in linen and spices according to Jewish burial custom. Imagine the shame that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus must have felt burying the executed Jewish rebel by Jewish custom. Jesus’ birth in the nearest available shelter is mirrored in his burial in the nearest available tomb.
Mary, upon visiting the tomb on the third day, found it lying wide open. The body inside was missing. Fearing grave robbery, she ran and told Peter and the Beloved Disciple. Upon investigating the tomb, they found that the linens used to wrap Jesus’ body had been stripped away. The cloth placed over his head, oddly enough, was neatly rolled into a bundle.
The last verse of the Gospel reading states that none of the three “yet underst[ood] the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” They could well have thought that someone had merely broken in and stolen the body, a final insult to a man so scorned and loathed in his day as Jesus of Nazareth.
But that day—the first Easter Sunday—Jesus once again confounded expectations. In rising from the dead he consummated the social and spiritual revolution implicit in his ministry. The poor were blessed, the last were the first, and death was conquered. The carpenter’s son who preached compassion and forgiveness—the dangerous rebel executed by the political and religious establishment—rose as the King of Kings.
*The content of these blogs are the personal reflections of the author and do not represent official Columban positions or statements