A Better Ending
“When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” – Luke 23:33-34
One of the dynamics that makes Hollywood movies so satisfying is the theme of revenge. You know how it goes. The bad guys abuse the hero and seem to be winning the day, and then there’s that moment when the tables turn and the hero gets his revenge. That’s classic Hollywood, right? Rocky knocks out Apollo Creed. The Wicked Witch of the West melts into the floor. The Rebels blow up the Death Star. Harry Potter turns Voldemort into floating ash. We love these moments. They touch something deep inside of us. And no one does it better than Hollywood.
So, can you imagine for a moment if Hollywood had written the story of Jesus? Jesus is the perfect hero. He’s kind, good, honest and brave. And as the story unfolds the villains come into sharper focus. There are the Pharisees who plot against him. The crowds who turn on him. The Romans who use their power against him. And the friend who betrays him. As the story progresses our sympathy for Jesus grows and our hatred of his enemies deepens. Can’t you just hear the dramatic music as they nail Jesus to the cross? And then the unthinkable happens and Jesus breathes his last. He’s dead. Evil has won the day. How can that be?
But then three days later the tables turn. The tomb is empty. Jesus, the hero, is alive! He returns with the power of God at his disposal. So what does he do? He does what every hero does in a good Hollywood movie. He takes his revenge. He nails every Roman to a cross and watches while they suffer. He gives the Pharisees the evil eye and they spontaneously self-combust. The fickle crowds are cast into eternal torment. And since this blog is rated PG-13 I can’t even describe what happens to Judas. That’s what Hollywood would do with the story of Jesus. And we’d love it. We’d eat it up.
But Hollywood didn’t write this story. God did. And God has written a most unexpected ending, an ending in which Jesus chooses forgiveness over revenge, mercy over justice. I don’t know if it would sell many tickets at the box office, but it’s a story with the power to change the world.
You see, the way of revenge, the very thing that so many of us hunger for, only perpetuates the pain of this world. Hatred and violence only keep us locked in an unending story of brokenness. But God has written a better ending, an ending that offers hope. This story of Easter proclaims that life is stronger than death, love is more powerful than hate, and forgiveness is more life-giving than revenge.
And because we are the Body of Christ, because we are the resurrection, God has not only written a new ending into our stories, but God calls us to author new stories of life and love and forgiveness into the lives of others. We don’t just celebrate Easter; we live it.
What might that look like? Watch this.
Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN