JESUS AND ‘THE STUPID CLUB’
Some think of Jesus as just a good and talented man who was unlucky and died young, like a wasted rock star. This easy option is deprived us by the resurrection….
As one cynical person has said, death can be the ultimate career move. I can think of several people this might apply to, and most of them are rock stars: Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Ian Curtis of Joy Division and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana – to name just five. Death is good for recording companies because it boosts declining CD sales; for publishing firms because definitive biographies sell; and for candle makers and florists because fans hold vigils. There is nothing like talent cut down in its prime, bringing out uncritical nostalgia in others. Why else is President John F. Kennedy revered by so many Americans? Had Kennedy lived, I am sure the public would have experienced the same disillusionment with him as with other politicians since. But he died, and so he is revered.
When Kurt Cobain shot himself, his mother said he had gone and joined ‘the stupid club’, meaning the growing band of rock stars who had recklessly wasted their lives. For his mother, Kurt Cobain’s death was not heroic, guaranteeing sainthood; it was selfish, shattering relationships – leaving behind a mother, wife and child and thousands of fans who had seen him as an edgy spokesman for a spiritually bereft generation allegedly dulled by entertainment and dead-end jobs.
As Jesus died on the cross, his friends may have had similar thoughts. This man could do anything: heal the blind, calm the storm, raise the dead. It would be wrong to describe the death of Jesus as suicide, but there are comparisons. As the net of evil forces surrounded him, he took no evasive action. It looks like he was sacrificing himself in an almost suicidal way.
If the story had ended with his death, you might have said that Jesus went on to join ‘the stupid club’, and that all we are doing this week is holding a rather sad vigil in memory of a death we wish hadn’t happened. Faith in Jesus is sometimes caricatured this way. The Faith Zone in the late and unlamented Millennium Dome said of Jesus that ‘he spent most of his life in obscurity and died tragically young’. This prompted David Dimbleby to write a letter to the Times in which he observed sarcastically: ‘I assume this to mean that the Crucifixion was an unfortunate accident, or that had he played his cards better Jesus could have died peacefully in his bed after a successful life as a carpenter’.
Instead, three days later he rose from the dead and it was then that something small but significant happened. At first his friends didn’t recognise him, thinking he was a stranger. This is the opposite of what usually occurs when someone you love has just died. Many of you will have had that sensation where you are sure you can see the person across the road, only to be disappointed by the realisation that it’s just someone who reminds you of them. Yet here the friends of Jesus thought they were speaking with a stranger, only to be taken by surprise that it was the man who just hours before had been a corpse. Some people imagine they see Elvis because they are willing it to happen; the friends of Jesus had no will power left in them on his death and took a lot of convincing that he was alive again.
Now if Jesus rose from the dead then what he said about himself during his life must have been true: that we should turn around and follow him. Saying we believe in the resurrection is like lighting a long fuse: we can pretend it’s not important, but eventually the fuse runs out and we can’t ignore the result.
I invite us to look at Jesus. Some think of him as just a good and talented man who was unlucky and died young, like a wasted rock star. But then that’s the easy option. We can be all nostalgic about the past and dream about what might have been. We don’t have to make a response: we can just light a candle on the anniversary. The harder option is to put aside talk of what might have been and to proclaim what is. The death of Jesus alone draws out our pity. The resurrection of Jesus demands a response. We can stop at his death or start at his resurrection. It is a choice facing each of us this week.
Why Violence Is Declining In The West But There Is No Guarantee It Will ContinueTo
Europe's peace since 1945 could yet be seen as a brief interlude.
Obama's Covert Wars
The use of drones is going to change warfare out of all recognition in the next decades.
Through A Glass Starkly
Images of traumatic incidents caught on mobile phone can be put to remarkable effect.
They can also be filmed as a way of avoiding a personal response to the incident.
What Are British Values?
Is there a British identity and if so, what has shaped the values and institutions that form it?