A parent knows – especially after the first child – not to have any illusions of childhood innocence. One word parents don’t teach their children is ‘Mine!’. I’ve heard it said that you could put two children in a room each with an identical toy and there would still be conflict. There is a quality of us – in us – that we can be happy or content until we see something someone else has and then we want it! And how quickly do things escalate in conflict – angry words can become violent actions at a shocking speed. And how quickly can a single action become a mob action – it may take quite a while for the first stone to be thrown but once it is in the air and then lands, striking something or someone, how quickly do others follow?! There is something about us – humanity – that creates haves and have-nots, violence and scapegoats, from which we don’t seem to learn as our diaries and histories reveal.
I think we have all been struck in Genesis how outside of the Garden of Eden murder happens so quickly (Genesis 4) and there is then fear of being killed and the so-called levels of justice seem just ‘legalised’ vengeance. We have a world that is very afraid.
Jesus’ crucifixion is a violent act. It is not simply a matter of execution but of humiliation and suffering – the individual is non human almost – not one of us – and a cypher to others not to challenge power and authority – to comply and participate in pointing out other victims that perpetuate the status quo. Violence and death are the world’s ultimate threat to coerce and control, to subjugate and rule and we are ‘wired’ for it.
Jesus does not respond with violence while challenging human power and authority and his death blindsides us and evil and powers and principalities and shows violence’s banality and futility. This truth and the new life that comes from it are seen by the light of an empty tomb that Jesus’ death has paradoxically defeated violence and death’s power “nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Jesus]” (Colossians 2:15 ESV).
In Jesus and with Jesus, Christians can now live not as the world lives – not with violence and scapegoats – but along side the victims – for the world’s persecutions don’t stop and our sinful self is still a mighty good swimmer and won’t be drowned in the water of Baptism. And Jesus knew this – that following him isn’t easy or straightforward and so he and the Father send to us a Comforter, a Helper, a Paraclete, a Defence Counsel who again and again and again reminds those who follow Jesus that they are fools … for Christ – not fools as the world thinks – that they are forgiven once and for all and again and again – that death has no real power over them – and that love casts out fear because Jesus is with them always to the end – of the world and of time – and then beyond.
Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus and comfort and guide his followers that the cross of Jesus is the wisdom of God and the power of God is a powerful moment that we are never abandoned in the troubles of this world or in the troubles that plague us ‘from the inside’.