I was having a conversation this past week about theology. I’ve worked in a multi-denominational setting for the last, I don’t know, 12 years? I’ve seen Catholics and Charismatics work side by side. I’ve heard people question why liturgy was replaced with dancing. I’ve been asked why we still say the Lord’s Prayer instead of express our own hearts individually. We all have our traditions, convictions, and methodologies. It’s always fighting the line between treating the things of God as sacred or celebratory. It’s trying to figure out how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to live based on what we think God wants or how God feels.
At the end of the day, it can be an overwhelming task to take a huge group of well intentioned people and point them all in the same direction with their differing points of view, different responses to pain or injustice in the world, and different priorities. But in this conversation I came back to one thing I can’t seem to shake…
I think Jesus is really important.
I don’t mean that flippantly. I hope that statement just makes you smirk just a little bit. I’m serious. I have fallen in love all over again with the story of Jesus the past few years. If you know me, you know that stories absolutely fascinate me. I don’t just read books or watch movies, I hyper-analyze them. I am enthralled with characters that have substance and depth. I love it when heroes have to face dragons. I am obsessed with dilemmas that face our protagonists and force them to choose sacrifice, especially for others.
Part of me wonders if that’s what the story was missing when Jesus showed up on the scene. After hundreds of years of supernatural silence, the Jewish leaders had only tradition to manage. As long as it was about the systems, things had to be constantly managed, judged, reassessed, perfected, clarified… no part of that was the Kingdom. What marvelous, revolutionary hope Jesus brought to the people. No wonder it was so refreshing to hear of unconditional love, unmerited grace, limitless forgiveness.
Jesus faced his dragon… and technically lost. Talk about the greatest story ever told! The hero dies?! There are rules in our storytelling. Our heroes are supposed to stare death in the face, maybe even glimpse the other side. But the hero is supposed to win! Three days… THREE DAYS! Every promise doubted, every sermon re-evaluated, every shred of hope resented. I can’t imagine how his followers felt for three days. Man, I would have hated God. I would have been so angry that “we” not only lost but that “they” won. I would have been so devastated that things were going to go back to the way they were. I would have kicked myself for letting my hopes get built up only to be crushed by disappointment.
Then the impossible happens. Our hero finds the ultimate loophole. Jesus understands how life and death really work. His sacrifice didn’t hurt any less, was no less humiliating, and wasn’t any more efficient. But it was worth it. Think of how many stories have tried to replicate this amazing plot twist (literature calls this the “Messiah figure”… think of Neo in The Matrix). But Jesus was the original… and everyone knows it.
I’ll say it again, Jesus is really important. No matter how complicated every other theological conversation becomes, everything is secondary to that simple fact. And I love it. I love it because this isn’t just a good story with a good character. This is real. God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Counselor decided to love us that much. To love, to fight for, to stick with, to embrace, to protect, to teach, to groom, to satisfy, to provide for… the list goes on.
Jesus is really, really important.