This Easter you may be encouraged to think of someone who gave their life to redeem us.
This is what a messiah is; their life redeems us. And this redemption doesn’t work from the outside but from the inside. The messiah must be one of us so that their life counts as one of ours. That’s why it has this redemptive nature.
How does it save us? It shows us what we can be. Also that means there’s no salvation except through emulation.
From our exploitation of the poor and vulnerable, to our adoration of whatever is powerful, humanity can often seem shitful. Look at the abuse of our children. Look at the idiotic cunning of nuclear deterrence. Look at climate change skepticism, still. We are cruel, and murderous and thick as bricks.
But the messiah figure is different to that. They oppose that. As a human they refuse to be just defined by their humanity. They are kind and wise. They bring joy.
Other than the messiah, we can feel that humanity is worth stopping like a failed experiment, or like an oil spill. These aren’t sensible thoughts. But we feel them some days anyway; Then, because of the messiah… maybe not.
This Easter like every Easter we will be told by some that our one and only messiah is Jesus. I imagine that reflects the experience of the first Christians. I imagine that is why Jesus was celebrated in that way.
You may struggle to see the messianic quality. There are too many Jesus followers who think of kindness and wisdom and joy as secondary issues. They propose Jesus following as attending church, railing against other people’s sins, prayer and praise and obedience to certain biblical laws (though not others). Some can even follow Jesus and cover up the abuse of children; some can follow Jesus and still support nuclear deterrence. There can seem to be little of a redeeming nature there, just more shitful humanity.
Last Easter I wrote about what I think what Jesus’ message was. It’s primarily about God. I think there is something awesome there. However if you don’t, I don’t care. There is nothing in my mind especially gained by “recognizing” Jesus as a messiah or as a redeemer of humanity. The proof of that is history. It’s a crying shame but it’s evident.
Fortunately there is not only one messiah 2000 years old speaking in a language we have to struggle to understand. Instead there are many. Humanity throws up countless lives who respond to whether we deserve destruction with “maybe not”. Malala_Yousafzai, Charles Perkins, Jonas Salk are amongst many others. Your messiah might be someone very close to you (like my partner is for me). Or it might be Jesus from 2000 years ago.
I often think of Fred Hollows, an Australian eye doctor. That’s a life to emulate. It’s a life that shows us a path to restoration of a humanity of redeemed value, in the midst of human caused pain.
The important thing to remember is that merely admiring a messiah gets us nowhere. Messiahs that we put the work of our salvation on to are false messiahs. They have become separate from our humanity and can no longer redeem us. Ultimately it is not the messiah that truly saves us but the path they show.