99+ N.T. Wright Quotes on Easter, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven and Gratitude - Quotes.pub

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Jesus, then, went to Jerusalem not just to preach, but to die. Schweitzer was right: Jesus believed that the messianic woes were about to burst upon Israel, and that he had to take them upon himself, solo. In the Temple and the upper room, Jesus deliberately enacted two symbols, which encapsulated his whole work and agenda. The first symbol said: the present system is corrupt and recalcitrant. It is ripe for judgment. But Jesus is the Messiah, the one through whom YHWH, the God of all the world, will save Israel and thereby the world. And the second symbol said: this is how the true exodus will come about. This is how evil will be defeated. This is how sins will be forgiven. Jesus knew—he must have known—that these actions, and the words which accompanied and explained them, were very likely to get him put on trial as a false prophet leading Israel astray, and as a would-be Messiah; and that such a trial, unless he convinced the court otherwise, would inevitably result in his being handed over to the Romans and executed as a (failed) revolutionary king. This did not, actually, take a great deal of “supernatural” insight, any more than it took much more than ordinary common sense to predict that, if Israel continued to attempt rebellion against Rome, Rome would eventually do to her as a nation what she was now going to do to this strange would-be Messiah. But at the heart of Jesus’ symbolic actions, and his retelling of Israel’s story, there was a great deal more than political pragmatism, revolutionary daring, or the desire for a martyr’s glory. There was a deeply theological analysis of Israel, the world, and his own role in relation to both. There was a deep sense of vocation and trust in Israel’s god, whom he believed of course to be God. There was the unshakable belief—Gethsemane seems nearly to have shaken it, but Jesus seems to have construed that, too, as part of the point, part of the battle—that if he went this route, if he fought this battle, the long night of Israel’s exile would be over at last, and the new day for Israel and the world really would dawn once and for all. He himself would be vindicated (of course; all martyrs believed that); and Israel’s destiny, to save the world, would thereby be accomplished. Not only would he create a breathing space for his followers and any who would join them, by drawing on to himself for a moment the wrath of Rome and letting them escape; if he was defeating the real enemy, he was doing so on behalf of the whole world. The servant-vocation, to be the light of the world, would come true in him, and thence in the followers who would regroup after his vindication. The death of the shepherd would result in YHWH becoming king of all the earth. The vindication of the “son of man” would see the once-for-all defeat of evil, the rescue of the true Israel, and the establishment of a worldwide kingdom. Jesus therefore took up his own cross. He had come to see it, too, in deeply symbolic terms: symbolic, now, not merely of Roman oppression, but of the way of love and peace which he had commended so vigorously, the way of defeat which he had announced as the way of victory. Unlike his actions in the Temple and the upper room, the cross was a symbol not of praxis but of passivity, not of action but of passion. It was to become the symbol of victory, but not of the victory of Caesar, nor of those who would oppose Caesar with Caesar’s methods. It was to become the symbol, because it would be the means, of the victory of God.14