I love plot twists. I love when you find out the good character is bad, or the bad character is good, or the main character is dead after all, or the whole thing was a dream. I love finding a movie with a good plot twist and showing it to all my unsuspecting friends, one by one, relishing the moment of revelation and the “Wait, what just happened?!” If I were to watch them by myself, they would lose their luster after a while, but I never cease to be amused by watching other people’s jaw drop and vicariously feeling the disorientation of surprise.
Game 6 of the NBA finals had plenty of its own little plot twists as well. For a while I thought all was lost, until Allen made that incredible 3-point shot with 5 seconds left on the clock, tying the Heat and the Spurs. Fortunately, nobody else was home to see my manic state as I screamed and punched the air and bit the couch pillows. When the game went into overtime, I thought I was going to die of a stroke not knowing how it was going to end. It was pure torture, but the delicious kind, where you’re on the edge of your seat in anticipation.
That was all anybody talked about here in Miami for the next week. “Can you believe Game 6? Snatched the championship right out of the Spurs’ hands! Did you see that shot by Allen?! Man, don’t you feel bad for the people who left early because they thought it was over?”
People definitely thought the game was over that day at the Praetorium so long ago when the crowds shouted “Crucify!”…when Jesus was led away to be stripped and beaten and crucified. That was it. There was to be no political revolution, no reclamation of Israel. He must not have been the promised Messiah after all. And these disciples, who had left behind their jobs and families and followed this guy on faith for the last three years — well, what were they supposed to do now? The cause that they had given their lives to ended up being a lost cause. It was over. There was shock and confusion and grief. And Judas Iscariot was one of those people who, sadly, left too early to see the end and celebrate the unbelievable victory that God was waiting to spring on the unsuspecting:
Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:15).
For Jesus, death wasn’t the end of the story. It was only the lead-in to the most glorious plot twist in history.
His whole life, Jesus told weird stories about upside-down values in this alternate reality He called “the Kingdom.” And not only did He tell these stories; He lived them out. The Kingdom was where the first were last, and the last were first. Where the people who worked all day got paid the same as the people who worked for an hour. Where the whores got more grace than the religious leaders. Where the filthy half-breed Samaritan was the hero.
It’s where the cross turned from a symbol of shame to a symbol of victory. Where a stolen body was a resurrected body, where the grave yielded life, where the carpenter’s son from Nazareth proved Himself to be the living, breathing, conquering SON OF GOD, who defeated death, scorned its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God Almighty.
I think any sense of apathy, any lack of wonder, on our part is simply the result of forgetfulness. Those of us who have heard our whole lives that “Jesus died and rose again” can forget all too easily how ridiculous, how unbelievable, how incredible this whole thing was. God forgive our complacency!!
The gospel is a roller coaster of emotion that we have unfortunately numbed ourselves to. We know how to receive the message in an appropriately churchy way, never experiencing the waves of shock, the convulsions of grief, the hardly daring to hope, and the struggling to make sense of it all. We can’t understand the doubting of Thomas, the glorious dawning of reality, and the immeasurable joy they must have felt. We can talk about hearing it “as if for the first time,” but if we truly heard it that way, we would all either be on our knees in awe or dancing in exuberant celebration.
But perhaps the closest we can get is simply to share the story with others who have not yet heard it. To smile to ourselves as they listen with bated breath, leaning in expectantly so they don’t miss a word of the riveting drama. To share in their joy as they see the majesty of God’s plan of salvation unfold. Perhaps the closest we can get to experiencing the story is to do just what Jesus instructed: Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, sharing the story, telling the miraculous news, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us.
Because He is with us always.
Through the ups and downs of life.
Through the confusion, the hesitation, and the joy.
Through every plot twist.
To the very end.