Ashes 10: Give life...

Too many people think that the sole (or even primary) purpose of Jesus' incarnation was to die... 

...I think they're missing the bigger picture

John 5:19-24 19 Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life."

In my grandma's yard in northern Kentucky, nearly every year, dandelions were an inevitable part of spring and summer. They always showed up, and you could count on their transformation from a beautiful yellow to the translucent cotton-ball fluffs we all know and that anyone with a decent green thumb despises. Why? Because when the wind blows on those tufts, you can practically imagine them multiplying exponentially. Sure, for the individual dandelion, the change from yellow to cotton ball signifies the end, for the broader species, it means life. One single flower becomes transformed into hundreds.

...The Son gives life to whomever he wishes...

Growing up, I remember hearing the phrase "Jesus came to die" over and over and over. Back then, I simply believed it, took it at face value. As I got older and struggled with depression and thoughts of self-harm, the idea that the person who was supposed to save me only showed up to die was pretty heartbreaking. To come down and know that your whole life and legacy would be encapsulated in this one event felt odd and incredibly minimized.

It had to be about more than death...

It's interesting that John writes this passage, these words of Jesus, and never once has him explicitly mentioning death. It doesn't show up. Instead, Jesus focuses on his relationship with Parent God. Jesus tells us that the ultimate judge of humanity is not God but himself. Furthermore, God's power for raising the dead (potentially a foreshadowing of Jesus' own resurrection) gets passed on to Jesus.

Most pressing about this passage is where it really starts: love. Relational love. It starts with the love God has for Jesus. Through that love, through that relationship, God imbues Jesus with life, with the power to bring it and spread it and, most of all, restore it — to whomever he wishes. While I still struggle with the Passion of Jesus and understanding its purpose (I know I'm not alone in that), I strongly believe that Jesus' life, including all the years that are lost to us as readers, was just as important as his death and resurrection. We are whole people with lives that have meaning. Yet we live in a world that sends us repeated messages almost implying that our lives are only as meaningful as society deems them to be. I think that becoming more like Christ means honoring life where it already is and working to restore it where it's been lost. This was Christ's mission. Let it be ours as well.