Monday, January 21, 2013

Parousia at the Cross

Something that I read in a New Testament class one time was that the Gospel of John does not have a scene of darkness at Jesus' crucifixion, unlike the synoptics, for John wanted to present the crucifixion as a time of light and glory.  In my reading so far of John's Gospel: The Way It Happened, Lee Harmon has made a similar point----that Jesus' crucifixion was a time of triumph.  In my latest reading, Lee explains more what he means by that.

On pages 234-235, John, Matthew, and Ruth are discussing whether or not Jesus' crucifixion was a victory.  John refers to Colossians 2:13-14, which affirms that Jesus  spoiled and made a spectacle of the powers and the authorities, presumably on the cross.  Matthew, who is skeptical that Paul wrote Colossians, asserts that Paul expected for the victory to be future rather than something that occurred at the cross, for Paul foretold in I Thessalonians 4:17 that Christ would show up in the air, and believers would ascend to meet him.  John then tells Matthew that Paul was correct, and yet John proceeds to interpret the parousia and Jesus' drawing of believers in another way: Jesus would be lifted up on the cross, and there he would draw all people to himself.  When Matthew inquires how Jesus can draw anyone to himself while he is on a cross, John asks Matthew what power Jesus would command while he is "suffering, dying, bound to a tree" (page 235).  Ruth then interjects an answer: "Love...that's all he would have left to draw people with" (page 235).

This was actually a powerful part of the book, but it wasn't just because of the scene itself.  It was also because I was watching a movie while I was reading this passage, and the music that was playing from the soundtrack fit the passage quite nicely.  The movie was Eastern Promises, which I did not care for, to tell you the truth, but the soundtrack was good with the passage that I was reading!

The notion that Jesus could command people with love when he had nothing else with which he could command them, due to his vulnerability and apparent helplessness on the cross, is quite powerful.  Like Matthew, however, I would like for that love to be backed up with concrete power, in some form, for how would we be helped if the person who loves us cannot deliver us from our hopeless situation?  In my opinion, there has to be some futurist eschatology if a religion is to have any hope----or at least some place that people can go (such as heaven) where good triumphs and evil does not prevail.

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