The Apostles didn’t understand Jesus until after the Resurrection. They couldn’t have understood him even then, had not his horrible death completely ruined all their notions about him, and left them utterly emptied of all expectation, all preconception, all pretense of comprehension.
His miracles were not enough – not even his raising of the dead. The Apostles took them to be the acts of a standard issue entirely human wonder worker, such as Elijah. They thought Jesus was a merely human rabbi, guru, prophet, or perhaps a reincarnation of Elijah (some thought his cousin John Baptist too might be such). They thought him the true High Priest King of Israel. Some of them thought that meant – or ought to mean – that he would drive out the Greeks and Romans – and the Egyptians and Babylonians and Persians – and establish for all time the Davidic Kingdom as the great world hegemon, to which all the other nations would pay tribute and pledge fealty. Some of them – his betrayer, e.g. – thought he was, or that he ought to be, a Social Justice Warrior. The Essenes hoped, and the Pharisees and Sadducees feared, that Jesus was a revolutionary who would demolish the established Second Temple cult and restore the old time religion of the First Temple.
The Apostles loved Jesus, and thought him the Messiah and the Son of God. But evidently they did not quite understand what those titles meant; not all the way down. If they had understood who he was, the Apostles would not have abandoned Jesus on Maundy Thursday. They would neither have raised a sword against the cohort sent to arrest him, nor would they have run away from that cohort. Peter knew that Jesus was the Son of God, and had the Word of everlasting life; but he could not have known what that meant, or he would not have denied Jesus 3 times that dreadful evening.
The arrest, conviction, torture, and execution of Jesus destroyed all their notions about him. His death demolished all their hopes. Their understanding was entirely shattered. They had bet their lives on him, and now lost that bet; so those lives were rendered utterly meaningless, pointless, stupid.
That had to happen. Their slates had to be wiped quite clean in order for them to begin to understand who Jesus is. To become believers, and to begin to understand what they believed, they had first to be reduced to nihilists. They had to be crushed. In no other way might they have turned completely away from all their mundane notions – not just about Jesus, but about everything – so that upon the Resurrection, they could see who he is; whom, i.e., they were then to preach; whom they could then, themselves utterly gobsmacked, transformed and transported, begin to understand how to preach.
Namely, the Principal of being as such, the reason we all keep living from one moment to the next, the First Motion who makes all worlds out of nothing and orders them, maintaining them in being, whose sovereign will cannot be frustrated, whom all things serve, and whose total permanent victory is necessary, thus certain and unstoppable. He is the One who Is, who is in Jesus made man and indeed an animal like us, come to rescue us from our despair at the doom of merely mundane life, which we are ourselves powerless to repair. He is come to tell us that the restoration of the world is in him already happening – and that all of us are welcome to join him in it, forever.
Good Friday is the purgation of all our hopes – including our hope of understanding – required in order for us to truly let go and let God in to our hearts, so that he can transform our being, and raise us to everlasting life with him. It is our necessary death.
Good Friday is the end of all things. But so then is it their beginning. It is the apotheosis and the complete fulfillment of Adam’s happy fault.
We shall all die, and so shall all we hold dear. Our choice then is only whether we shall die with Jesus, and so live with him in Paradise forever, or … forever alone, and pointlessly. Shall we pass through the devastation and nothingness of Good Friday into the superliminal Restoration and supersubstantiality of Easter, or shall we pause in death, and stay there permanently, stuck?
Up to us.
On, then, into the maelstrom of the final conflict that awaits us all. This day is our annual rehearsal of our death, and of our test. Courage! Hold fast. On to Golgotha.
On, thence, to Easter, and then, fearlessly, to Pentecost.
Thanks Kristor. This is personally very timely.
May God bless and keep the faithful Orthosphere authors and readers this Easter.
Sean, I pray that whatever evils now beset you soon pass, leaving you stronger and wiser. I’m sure that will happen eventually, in any case. God bless and keep you, too. Courage!
Thank you, Kristor, for the meditation. Memorable.
You are welcome, my old friend. A blessed Easter to you.