It’s easy to conclude that the resurrection of Jesus was the moment that Jesus became king. But as we saw on Friday, it was in his death that Jesus was enthroned. The resurrection simply added a dramatic confirmation to the new reality - the new kingdom - Jesus was inaugurating.
The resurrection was a conclusive statement that Jesus’ persecutors had no idea what was truly going on. They thought they had brought the life of a religious troublemaker to a shuddering halt. They completely failed to see the role their actions were playing in a much, much larger story.
In short, they failed to see there were powers at work they had no idea of. Little did they know they were involved in an epic battle between light and darkness, life and death.
In the moment of his death, it’s easy to imagine Jesus’ persecutors - and the dark, shadowy powers working through them - celebrating extravagantly. They thought they had won. They thought their power and control over people was safe and secure. They thought the status quo had been maintained. How little did they know. Having inadvertently enthroned Jesus as king by crucifying him, Jesus’ resurrection on that first Easter Sunday morning then ensured a fatal blow was dealt to death itself.
Of course, it’s easy to miss what’s happened and think nothing has changed. Fatal blow to death itself? Yeah, right. People still die every day. It’s so easy - and understandable - to mock both the so called defeat of death and indeed the idea that Jesus rose from the dead.
Today, countless people sneer at these ideas. How can intelligent people believe such nonsense? Dead people don’t rise from the dead. Death is still clearly a plague affecting all of humanity. It’s all a load of rubbish. And so on.
It reminds me of the story in the gospels where Jesus goes to the home of a family to pray for a sick girl only to find them all saying that she’d died before he got there. ’She’s not dead,’ he said, ’she’s sleeping’. And they all laughed. He was clearly deluded. And then he simply raised her up to the astonishment of everyone.
So many of us today are like that family. We scoff at the idea of any possibility other than the immediately obvious. And yet Jesus consistently invites and challenges us to see additional dimensions in our world.
The obvious viewpoint is that death still reigns; that dead people stay dead. Of course it is. And of course Jesus rising from the dead was an impossibility. That’s kind of the whole point. Jesus calls people to see deeper, less obvious realities. And that takes faith.
The story of the resurrection is the story of the defeat of death itself. Not immediately, but ultimately. Death has been fatally wounded and day by day, step by step, new life is spreading. The kingdom of God is coming. How? Through everyone who chooses to see that there’s more going on than meets the eye. Through everyone who sees in Jesus someone who was more than just any other human being. Through everyone who decides to follow in his footsteps and carry on the work Jesus started, bringing new life and hope and healing and forgiveness to all who embrace it.
It’s Good Friday today. For many people this means next to nothing. It’s a day off work. Whoop! But it is a day loaded with meaning. It’s a day that exists to help us remember the horrific, bloody, agony-inducing, sacrificial crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.
And it’s not something that only Christians should take time to reflect upon. The fact that over two thousand years later one man’s death is still so embedded in the human psyche and so central to our history should cause everyone to pause and ponder.
Why do we remember this one man and his death in way like we do no other man? How has one man’s life and story spread to every corner of the globe? Why, two thousand years later, are there millions and millions of his followers across every continent and country of our planet?
I should add that, in case there are any doubters out there, the existence of Jesus is a historical fact. No credible historian - religious or secular - questions the fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived and breathed and walked and talked in our world.
That he existed doesn’t explain why he’s still remembered - and followed - today though or why his death is so hailed. The New Testament gospels stories (as told my Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) all build towards his death. The narrative of all four gospels all walk their readers towards the death of Jesus. And Jesus himself clearly knew that that was where his life was headed.
Some Christians may be wondering about the resurrection at this point. But I don’t want to jump ahead. It’s Good Friday today, not Easter Sunday. And the truth is that, unlikely as it may seem, it was through his death that Jesus was enthroned as king.
His persecutors thought they were mocking him when they put a crown of thorns on his head. Pilate had no idea how true it was when the sign he commissioned to put on the cross of Jesus read, ’King of the Jews’. Little did they all know that, inadvertently, they were simply playing their part in literally enthroning Jesus as the actual king over all the world. His death was the means by which the kingdom of God would come to all creation. Not immediately, as is abundantly clear, but it was the start. It was the moment that everything changed. Forever.