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The Paradox of the Passion

Anyone who reads or hears the story of Easter can't help but be confronted with what Dennis Davidson called the “Paradox of the Passion.” A paradox is “a statement which superficially seems to be contradictory, impossible, even absurd, yet beyond the superficial is in reality true.” It is above all else inconsistent with common sense and yet is nevertheless factual. It is, as some would say, the last thing in the world you would ever expect.”

Who would have ever thought God would come to live on earth with us, to be one of us in His Son? Even more striking is the thought that God would send His own innocent Son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of those least deserving? No man could have ever dreamed a more ironic plot to a story. But it isn’t just a story, it’s a reality.

Consider the overwhelming irony. He was labeled guilty and put to death by His own people. It wasn’t done by some conquering army from afar or radical terrorist. Jewish leaders testified to His guilt. It was Jesus who was marching out of step, not them. He was a liberal, trouble making activist. Think about it, things had been happening the same way in Israel for thousands of years. What right did this young upstart preacher have to come in and try to change things all around? He wasn’t a Rabbi, he wasn’t a Levite, He wasn’t a scribe or a Pharisee. He was just a carpenter, He was a newcomer to Jerusalem. He was only thirty three years old and He was wrong.”

“So why should they change? After all it was the Sadducees who were the lawmakers, not Jesus. He just didn’t understand how things were done. How dare He call them vipers, how dare He call them fools, how dare He call them hypocrites. Who did he think He was anyway? And then He had the utter gall to claim to be the equal to Jehovah God. In their eyes he was guilty as sin.”

Add to the irony of the Easter events by noting the Roman authorities. Pilate knew what he was doing. He saw trouble coming and he already had too much trouble in Jerusalem. There Jews were on the brink of revolt. He didn’t need all the problems that this young Nazarene carpenter represented. To him, the problem was not whether Jesus was guilty or innocent. He simply thought the problem was best resolved by giving in to the religious leaders. After all, this was a religious problem and if they wanted this man gone, then so be it.

And wasn’t it ironic that Barabbas, who had been found guilty of a capital offense, was declared innocent by the crowd and Jesus was declared guilty? Can’t you just imagine it was some of the same people had sung hosanna and waved palm branches on Sunday, but then on Friday they shouted “Crucify Him, Crucify Jesus?” Can’t you just see the undeniable paradox?

Lest we feel smug about our own time in history, we should observe that the paradox is not far removed from today. How many people praise his name and sing Hosanna on Sunday but on Monday live for themselves and take his name in vain? Popular opinion had proclaimed Christ a king and now it was proclaiming him a criminal. Popular opinion can sometimes be useful. But when it comes to matters of faith, be careful. The crowd isn’t always right, just because they are loud.

This would just be a sad story about a good man who should not have died if it was all over on Friday when his body was taken down from the cross. “Good Friday does end on a very final note. Jesus was gone, dead, buried and silenced forever. Everything that Jesus had said, everything that Jesus had taught, everything that Jesus had done was gone and would be forgotten, because Jesus was wrong. For two days by every measure that is used by the world, Jesus was wrong. Jesus clashed with all the selfish distorted values and morals of a fallen society and he died because nobody can fight a monster that big and win.”

But the story doesn’t end with the crucifixion, that was Friday but Sunday was a new day. The miracle of the Easter message had taken place. The tomb was empty. He died but He was now alive. “If Jesus had of remained in the ground He would have been just as wrong as Mohammed, Confucius and Buddha. If Jesus had of remained dead He would have been just another misguided prophet who thought He was right.” And because Jesus of Nazareth was right on Easter day, fifty days later on the day of Pentecost those first 120 Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit and Christianity was proven right.

The paradox of His death turns into praise for the hope his resurrection offers. “There are times that it looks like Christianity is beaten but time and time again we struggle back to the surface and emerge victorious. Oh our doctrine may fail us and our leaders may disappoint us, but Christianity will not be kept down. And as we look around at the evil in this old world sometimes it appears that Satan has the upper hand, sometimes it would appear that Satan is victorious.” Yet, His Word is alive bringing a message of salvation to people from every walk of life and every corner of the globe.

The message of Easter becomes personal when we realize because Jesus Christ did not lose, we will not lose. In winning the victory over death on Calvary’s mount so many years ago Jesus won the victory for us. When Jesus won over death, He offered us the power to win over death.

“Jesus did not win on the cross so we could have the Easter Bunny, and Jesus did not win on the cross so we could have chocolate eggs, and Jesus did not win on the cross so we could have a long weekend in the spring.”

Jesus Christ won on Calvary for one reason and one reason only, and that was to give you and me the opportunity to have eternal life. “I would suspect that if you gave Jesus a list of things He would like to have been doing over the Easter weekend that dying on a cross would have been somewhere near the bottom of the list. But Christ died on the cross so you wouldn’t have to and He rose again to demonstrate that he was even in control of death.” That’s the paradox of the passion.


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