The innocent dies.
Arrested (Good Friday) - Salt and Gold Collection
1 Peter 3:18
Christ died once for our sins. An innocent person died for those who are guilty. Christ did this to bring you to God, when his body was put to death and his spirit was made alive.
First off, Happy Easter. We hope your time over Easter was full of peace, joy and celebration. We hope it was a time for meaningful reflection and a chance to realise how loved you really are by those around you and the Creator of all things.
For me, I really needed this year’s Easter message to be relevant to the world I live in. In previous years, I have maintained a habit of keeping Easter’s Message as an internal reflection focusing solely on my personal relationship with Jesus.
This was a mistake, though understandable.
My world was small. My bubble was comfortable and the culture I was a part of was set up to maintain, decorate and expand this bubble. One thing about being in Colombia is that this bubble is popped over and over again. Despite this, I still naturally revert to my habits and experiences of bringing everything back to myself and my own experience. But, Colombia makes it hard for my bubble to expand because there are way too many pointy things along the path I walk.
As I started my effort to dig deeper into Easter this year I again sought an understanding of what Easter meant for me. Personalising my God is something embedded in me. My starting point is me and from this starting point, I make sense of God and the world. This means God is shaped according to me and I pick and choose the things that fit and I exclude those that don’t. I make my Golden Calf.
“What does Jesus’ death mean to me?”
“What does resurrection mean for my walk with God?”
“Teach me the fullness of your power in my life.”
Yet, amidst my admittedly religious attempts to perform the western habits of connection I am familiar with; following a bible plan, daily devotions, personal prayer, listening to sermons (all good things if God is the starting point and not myself) something really, really pointy popped the personal bubble I was again constructing.
During the week leading up to Easter news of another massacre surfaced. A community of Indigenous Colombians holding a community celebration were ambushed and attacked by the Colombian Army disguised in all black clothing. You can read about it here.
Mums, children, teenagers and community leaders were either killed or have since ‘gone missing’, which means dead but the bodies have been hidden. This attack was praised on a national level by both Army Leaders and by the President himself.
As you can read in the article, the government released official statements praising the events saying they had killed illegal guerrillas. But, this was proven to be another lie based on overwhelming evidence from eyewitnesses and findings from independent investigations.
In Colombia, these victims are called “False Positives”. (Yeh, there have been so many that there is even a proper name given to it now.) “Falsos Positivos” are – innocent people extrajudicially killed by members of the Colombian army, and then falsely labelled as enemy combatants. Read one account of false positives here.
In 2022 alone, we have had 33 massacres with a total of 122 victims.
You can imagine how difficult it is to form a personal bubble of the Easter Story between me and God when events like this are happening. So, when I heard about this event it pierced my heart.
I was thrown into darkness.
I was crushed by hopelessness.
I was devasted by the death of yet another innocent.
My spirit, heart and mind asked (ok screamed) this question to God,
“How does the message of Easter meet the needs of this community?”
The words; ‘the innocent dies’ plagued my mind. The innocent dies. Death of the innocent.
I went from meditating on what Jesus did/does for me, to think about Jesus Himself. God has a good habit of regularly bringing me back to this starting point. Unfortunately, I seem to have an unbreakable habit of reversing it to be about me and then how God fits into my life.
I got to thinking about Jesus' experience during Easter.
Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”
An innocent man dies.
This man was a threat to the systems of oppression.
He was hated by those in power.
He was labelled as a revolutionary, a heretic, a dangerous man.
He was ambushed and seized in the night.
He was not given a fair trial.
He was tortured, abused and humiliated.
He was killed.
An innocent man dies.
And it hit me. Jesus, himself, was a false positive.
The correlations between His experience and that of so many innocent victims in Colombia are astounding. In Colombia, when the innocent get in the way of the corrupted goals of the government the innocent dies. What’s worse is their lies are not only believed but publicly supported from the pulpits. For example, when there was a proposal for peace that had the potential to end the Colombian civil war that has been running since 1964 (read more) guess who went to the streets aggressively refusing forgiveness and reconciliation? The religious. They pressured the government for punishment without mercy for the soldiers wanting to put their weapons down and transition back into society.
And so this seething hatred which was not satisfied by the rejection of peace but requires the constant massacres deceitfully labelled as a war on guerrillas continues. Celebrated by the religious, enforced by the authorities.
So in typical Anglican style, “What’s my application?”
I don’t have one. That’s what sucks. Maybe that is because I want it to be the application of my choosing. I wouldn’t mind one like what the disciples asked for;
“When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”
And the disciple Matthew Crowe asked, “Can we throw a bunch of massive scorpions down their pants too, just to make sure.”
And Jesus said, “You read my mind.”
Unfortunately, only the first part of these verses actually happened, and Jesus said no. I know, bummer right. I’ve come to realise, against my will, that it’s not always a neat bow, bookends, start and finish. The scriptures don’t always (or usually for me) wrap up every experience to be safely filed under a specific bible verse to copy-paste for future reference when this happens again in my life or to use to counsel someone else going through it.
But you know, I think this is also how God works with me. He takes me back to himself rather than directs me to a principle or lesson. He takes me back to Himself. His character. His Heart. His Power. Himself.
The innocent dies.
Jesus went through what those we love here go through.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
It used to be enough to know Jesus suffers like we do when my suffering was reduced to things like I didn’t study for an exam, I lacked patience with a difficult work colleague or I didn’t have money for rent. Cos to be honest, I could figure out those problems and a lot was actually my fault. It was more like bad choices, a lack of self-control than suffering like the bible describes Jesus experienced.
So where do I end up? Well, I know Jesus understands. I know Jesus went through it. That’s all.
What does that mean? Not sure. I need to keep thinking and meditating. I know it means something significant and the power of this truth is something the world needs. But right now, I still don’t know.
I’m still broken. I’m still angry. I still can’t see the hope outside of this darkness.
So, I guess all I can do is what I’ve done many times before when it gets dark, just keep walking. Along the way, I’ll give all I can to build the kingdom cos I know first-hand that’s where tangible hope is found, both in the construction and the completion.