Thursday, August 29, 2013

But The World Will Rejoice (part 2 of 2)

Believers are called to, at the least (if they have not personally experienced suffering and shame), empathize and sympathize with those that are suffering, making the cares and concerns (troubles and suffering) of the fatherless and the widows (and those in prison or in need of clothing or a cup of water) their own cares and concerns.  Believers are to enter into this suffering and know that it is worthwhile, and know that their work will remain, precisely because they serve the one hailed as the risen King who endured suffering and gross humiliation, overcame it in every respect, has conquered the world, and is ruling it even now, even though this often would not appear to be the case.  Does this view of suffering and conquering not seem to be more in line with the Spirit of the Word? 

With this said, how should one approach this issue of the world rejoicing?  Is it negative or positive?  Does the world rejoice because Jesus has been removed and “the world” (when viewed through the lens of “the church versus the world”) can now go on its merry way in defiance of the Creator, or is it something altogether different?  Perhaps it is worthwhile to see it in the positive light of the Creator God’s intentions for His once-good-though-fallen-creation? 

The Apostle Paul, based on His understanding of the Christ-event and its implications (perhaps relying on the oral version of the Gospel accounts, but certainly offering his thoughts on the subject prior to the written biographies of Jesus) writes in Romans about the creation (the world) itself, having been subjected to futility through no fault of its own, groaning and suffering under the bondage of decay, while awaiting its liberation from the same (8:21-22). 

When Jesus went away into death, His disciples were sad because they did not expect a Resurrection.  As expressed in the narrative, nobody did.  Somehow though, as implied by Paul, the world (the creation) itself knew that with Jesus’ death, a Resurrection was coming, and it rejoiced that its new day was about to dawn.  Yes, Jesus’ Resurrection marked the beginning of the covenant God’s new creation, and the inauguration of the kingdom of heaven on earth.  A new world had begun.  In this world Jesus reigned, having conquered the power of death that had ruled the world since Adam, by making it possible for those that lived with a trusting allegiance to Him as cosmic ruler, to overcome any and all fear of death (or suffering and shame), grounded in the hope of their own resurrection into the world that Jesus now inhabited---the world of the coming together of heaven and earth.  

To convey this, Jesus uses the imagery of a woman giving birth, experiencing pain and distress because the time has come for her to deliver (John 16:21).  Is it not interesting that Jesus, in speaking of His death and hoped-for Resurrection, in the expectation that His Resurrection, if it happened, was going to mark the beginning of a new age, resorts to speaking of the pain of childbirth that was said to have been introduced into the world because of the fall, thus linking the climactic act of world history with the veritable beginning of the story?  The woman giving birth groans and suffers, but when the “new human being has been born into the world” (16:21b), she forgets her suffering and she rejoices. 

Is this not what happened when Jesus came forth from the tomb?  Was not a new human being born into the world?  Indeed, something more than what is thought of as a human being was born into the world.  Affirming that thought, those who served as eyewitnesses of this exalted individual struggled to find the words to adequately convey what they were experiencing in their interactions with this one that came to be understood to be the firstfruits of the new creation---a being now fully and truly human---with a physical, resurrected body fully animated by the Spirit of the Creator God, bearing the divine image as that God had intended for the being that was intended to be the crowning glory of His creation.       

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