by Debora Bell, Lt. Colonel –
I’ve been thinking about paradoxes lately.
Webster defines a paradox as “a statement that seems absurd or contradictory but is true.”
I’ve found the Bible is full of paradoxes. For instance, when Jesus said we must lose our lives to find them, we have a paradox. Possibly the greatest paradox of all is the cross. When Jesus was dying on the cross it appeared to all that he had just suffered his greatest defeat. His enemies breathed a sigh of relief because this troublemaker was finally out of their way. His family, friends and followers despaired because they thought he was lost to them forever. Yet in God’s eyes, this was the ultimate victory. The death of Christ on the execution stake meant the defeat of sin and death.
During this season of lent we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate one of eternity’s greatest contradictions. In what is called the Triumphal Entry, the disciples must have thought the impromptu celebration of the crowds that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem was the beginning of the actual establishment of a new earthly kingdom. They must have imagined themselves being a part of a great coronation day when Jesus would finally be acknowledged as King of their nation.
Perhaps Andrew began to imagine the day when all people would be fed and none would go hungry. After all, he had witnessed what Jesus did with the lunch of a little boy. John could have imagined a world where there would be no sick people because he had seen Jesus give health to the sick, sight to the blind and sound to the deaf. Simon the Zealot thought of a nation free of Roman rule and free from tax collectors and rulers who took advantage of people. He had seen the way Jesus cared for all people. Yes, I am sure that each one of the disciples thought that the wonderful welcome Jesus received was the beginning of glorious days ahead.
How puzzled they must have been as the events of the week took another turn. One of the first things Jesus did was to take on the religious rulers as he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and other entrepreneurs who were there to take advantage of people in the temple area. This was not the best way to win friends and influence enemies. The disciples surely wondered, “What is he thinking?” as they saw the angry faces of the religious rulers.
Now, fast forward to the cross. How could this happen? The dreams and hopes of all those who thought Jesus was the promised one died on the cross as they saw Jesus take his last breath and heard him say, “It is finished.”
Even as the work of Christ was finished on the cross, it was a beginning. Jesus said that a grain of wheat must die and be buried for it to begin the process of life. As he was taken off the cross and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Aramethia, his loved ones only thought of his last words, “It is finished.” A rock was rolled over the entrance to the tomb and sealed. The enemies of Jesus wanted to be sure it was over, so they placed a guard to ensure that nobody would steal the body. The family and friends of Jesus spent a sad and silent Sabbath. What a difference a week makes!
What a difference a day makes. Sunrise would reveal that Jesus was alive and that his kingdom had been established on earth. It was not a kingdom of this world, but it was an everlasting kingdom. The kingdom of Jesus is wherever he reigns as king. It is among us. It is in us.
Life is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? I win an argument and lose a friend. I give money away as a gift or offering instead of saving it and somehow I end up with more than I had. We are in tough economic times and know it is prudent to tighten our belts, yet we must not forget that God is still able to give us more abundantly than we expect. We live as good stewards of the resources God gives us, but we must not forget to ask for more.
Jesus died so that we might live. We must die to self if we are to truly know abundant life. We are called to be holy people and live according to a righteous standard, but we are to love the sinner and make them welcome. We are to lead and serve. Often our greatest defeats become our greatest victories. The more we surrender to God, the greater our victory. A lot of truths are buried in these puzzles.