The core biblical story is about salvation, and one way of thinking about salvation is to use the word liberation, a word that fits with the message of Jesus, which we’ve heard proclaimed by Luke. Gustavo Gutierrez is a Peruvian theologian who became dismayed with the church he served that always seemed to side with the powerful people in society rather than standing with the poor and the oppressed, which was what he believed Jesus would do. So when he read the Exodus story and the Gospels, what he found was a word of liberation. He discovered a very profound truth, which is that “salvation is not something other worldly, in regard to which the present life is only a test” [A Theology of Liberation, p. 151].
Each of the four gospels tells the Easter story in its own way. You may have a favorite. Many like the story of Mary Magdalene running into Jesus in the garden. She’s not sure who this man is at first, but then Jesus reveals himself to her and sends her off to tell the rest of the disciples that he’s alive (John 20:1-21). Mark doesn’t tell the story quite like that. He takes us to an empty tomb, where a group of women encounter an angelic messenger. The messenger gives directions, but we don’t see Jesus. The body is missing, and the three women who visit the tomb are alarmed, terrified, and afraid. It appears that Jesus is alive, but we have to take that on faith.
I know that Palm Sunday is a week away, but according to the lectionary Jesus is already in Jerusalem. The world is behind him, and the cross lies before him. In that moment, Jesus declares: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Yes, according to John, this is the hour for which Jesus came into the world. It’s not that Jesus is excited about what lies before him. He confesses that his soul is troubled. He would like for this hour to pass him by, but he’s already crossed the threshold. There is only one way to go and that is forward toward the cross of glory.
In John 3, Jesus invites us to believe and in believing receive eternal life. These ideas are taken up in the concept of salvation. So, what do we mean by the words and concepts? What do they have to do with our lives?
We started our Lenten journey last Sunday with Mark’s brief introduction to the beginnings of Jesus’s ministry. We watched as Jesus was ordained at his baptism, received his orientation in the wilderness, and then returned to Galilee to start preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. That story has moved along quite a bit in our reading today from the Gospel of Mark. Jesus has had some success as a preacher and as a healer. He’s gathered a group of disciples, healed the sick and the injured, fed the multitudes, and he has caught the attention of the people. If Twitter existed back then, news of his exploits would be trending.