It's Holy Week, the day before Easter Sunday and I am preaching in the jail this afternoon.
Last night I watched two movies - Resurrection, written by Max Lucado and Wolfman, the 2010 film starring Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.
Tonight I will watch The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's dark and powerful vision of the last night of Jesus Christ and his following execution. Mel did a fantastic job of showing the darkness that all men face when standing against the world, but the elements of horror he added opened my eyes to the fierce supernatural battle Jesus was fighting to save our souls when He conquered the great destroyers - Death and the Devil.
I loved werewolves as a child - still do, in fact. I love the eerie and not quite understandable, as long as I am on the safe side of the equation. I love Jesus too, and I've always wondered if it was O.K. to appreciate both. I think it is, for God set us up to love aspects of the truth BEFORE we comprehend it fully.
Did you know that Passover is always held under a full moon? Did you know that the reason the Jews celebrate it is because God sent an Angel of Death to kill all the firstborn [the most precious child] in Egypt IF they did not have the blood of an innocent lamb on their wooden doorposts?
We Christians see that blood on beams as a foreshadowing - God is an EXCELLENT dramatist, BTW - of Christ dying on the cross. Later, Christ's disciples realized it too. Jesus used the Passover meal as a sign to His own bloody death to save us from - well, the 'Angel of Death.'
You may have heard this before, that Christ not only pays for our sins at the cross of Calvary, but those who place their hope, trust and faith in Him will also be resurrected - as He was on Easter Sunday. Corpses will come to life and even our world and universe will be re-made.
But what you may not realize is that you and I are terribly afraid of Jesus, if we see Him as He is.
The last chapters of the Gospels are all horror shows with a surprise ending. Mark's gospel does its best to leave us hanging in the original text. The fear of meeting a man you'd abandoned to evil men under a full moon only to meet his resurrected body at breakfast cannot be less than terrifying.
I mean it. I think we are afraid of Jesus. We trivialize Him casually and think we can get away with re-writing what men shed their blood to write, but God, if He shows us mercy, comes in and MAKES us pay attention.
Wonder and terror are mixed in nearly equal parts in that resurrection Sunday.
And what I realized this past week is that we Gentiles like to put one thing here and another there but God gave the Jews a better perspective of what was going to happen in the yearly ritual of Passover.
You see, we have Thanksgiving, a feast for us to Give Thanks to God for His goodness to us in our lands. We also have Halloween, where we play with spooky things and talk about ghosts and monsters and sit under a full moon, glorying in her beauty while still aware that the numinous could break through our staid reality at any moment.
But the Jews get both concepts in Passover -and thus have a superior chance to see the Lamb who was Slain - if they believe that is.
Think about it. It is a night of a full moon, and we speak of how God sent a Death Angel to slaughter our unbelieving foes. Yes, God was fair - they had their chances and if they had obeyed as the Jews did, they would have been spared too. We are never told the angel of death looked to see if they were Jewish - but rather if they had the blood on the door posts, it would 'pass over' their household.
This makes it a very early hint God was working salvation for EVERYONE, not just His chosen people.
Then, we eat. We have some bitter herbs to remind us of the bitter toil, but we have nice roasted lamb, flatbread with salt, and several cups of Kosher wine as well for the joy of escaping bondage! Pretty awesome fare.
We keep our coats and shoes on, because at MIDNIGHT, we are going to be moving out - like the Israelites did hundreds of years earlier. [Sort of adds New Year's into the mix, doesn't it?]
But I am told in a modern Jewish household, that the door is opened by a child to see if Elijah has come. A place is set for him, and the child runs to back to the table to see if he has sipped from the cup.
So there is still this expectation of a spirit entering and communing with the living. During a full moon. At midnight. Spooky, eh?
Now keep in mind, Jesus does not want to scare you AWAY - He only wants to scare the Hell out of you. Literally. The hellishness of unbelief, found in every man and woman since the Garden of Eden and the Fall. He wants you to KNOW He's real and KNOW there is nothing to fear about death - but fear God and do His will so you will live and keep on living.
I say this all the time in DuPage County Jail. I say it here:
"Gentlemen, Jesus Christ is not afraid of you. You are afraid of HIM! Think! If you kill a man and he gets back up from the grave, what are you going to do? Kill him again?"
"We are told the disciples were in a locked room. It was, indeed to keep the Romans out. But I wonder sometimes if God smiled, because when His Son appeared, they also, would have a hard time escaping!"
"These men saw Him killed. They saw Him also walk on water and do things not even the old prophets could do. Jesus sees their fear, says "Peace be with you!" and immediately does the most calming, as-you-please thing He can possibly do: He asks for some food, 'cause He sure is hungry!"
"Later on, He helps them catch fish they could not find, but it is only to show them once AGAIN, He's going to care for them and provide for every need if they will just serve Him as evangelists.
"There He is, a dead man broiling tilapia over a bed of coals on the Sea of Galilee, and He says "Hey - bring some of the fish YOU caught!"
"Why is Jesus acting so casual? Because He is terrifying to us mortals."
"Gentlemen, if a big, scary monster puts his right arm around you and says 'We will be friends.' and you are NOT scared, you are either stupid or flatly ignorant."
"I can cure one, not the other... Let us worship this scary God who will kill His own Son to pay for OUR crimes - and then invite us to breakfast!"
Then, following my lead, all ten to fifteen men dressed in orange jumpsuits with PRISONER emblazoned on their backs, get up and sing "I Love You Lord" by Laurie Klein, arms outstretched and voices high.
They sing WONDERFULLY, I must say.
Thank you , Wolfman Jesus.
Happy Easter Everyone!
p.s. ...and by the way, Lord, you can eat all the bunnies you find in our backyard.