running to die

July 13, 2005

Mealtime Habits of the MessiahI finished Mealtime Habits of the Messiah, by Conrad Gempf this morning. As I was reviewing some of the things I had underlined in the book, I was struck again by these few paragraphs from page 157:

· For here is the very nub of the difference between the human perspective on the gospel story and the divine one. Left to our own devices, we see the suffering and cross as something that Jesus had to go through in order to get to the real event, the resurrection. Jesus triumphant, vindicated. It’s only human to think his fate or destiny is to win and become king, no matter what adversities are thrown at him. Suffering and death (again, whatever he means by that) are hurdles or obstacles or distractions on the way to the finish line.

That’s not the way Jesus sees it. And he has a heck of a time making it clear to his disciples that it is not about persevering through struggles to win at the end. He has come, not in order to rise, but in order to die. He is not running to come through with a respectable time; he is running in order to fall. Or rather the necessary centerpiece of the race he will run and complete is that falling (Heb. 12). To be sure, his death is not the end of the story, but it is the goal of the story, the whole point of the story. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

How powerful and important is it for the followers of Jesus to understand that, much like him, the goal of our faith is not that we will be resurrected some day, but that we will die to ourselves today?

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