Everyone enjoys a good plot twist. Whether in a novel or a film, that moment when everything you thought you knew is suddenly undone, and realization dawns mingled with disbelief. Those are the best endings.
In many ways, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the greatest twist ending of them all. Talk about a plot twist! Nobody saw that coming. And no doubt after the resurrection the disciples thought: “No way! Are you kidding me? How did we miss the clues?!?”
In his Gospel, John is careful to point out the clues and the signs that were there all along. With the benefit of hindsight, John helps us see the things he missed the first time around, the hints of the twist ending that was to come.
- The Piercing Distinction: The standard protocol for Roman crucifixion turns out very differently in Jesus’ crucifixion. All of this happens to fulfill the prophecies of Scripture. John wanted us to the see the clues—through these seemingly random breaks in protocol, the Father distinguished the uniqueness of His Son. All these deviations singled out Jesus as different: the One not like any others, the One fulfilling Scripture, the One who was special. It’s as if the Father was saying, “You might want to keep your eye on this One, because He’s just getting started.”
- The Perplexing Loyalties: As Jesus was lifted up, He drew all people to Himself, including Joseph and Nicodemus, whose faith now comes to light. Joseph and Nicodemus saw something in Jesus’ death as He was lifted up, looking on the One who was pierced. They mourned and they believed, and they received the grace and mercy of God right then and there. Think about it—they must have believed at some level that the story wasn’t over. Why else would they throw everything away in loyalty to Jesus? If Jesus was dead and gone forever, there would be no point in honoring Him, no point in throwing their lot in with Him … unless they believed that Jesus really is the Christ, and that this story wasn’t over. It may be that these two individuals, of all people, began to wonder if God might just have a trick up His sleeve.
- The Paradoxical Tomb: The first Adam laid as dust in the first garden, awaiting the breath of God in creation. Now the second Adam was laid in the dust of another garden, and when God breathed resurrection life into His body, it meant not resuscitation of the old but re-creation of the new. In other words, a new humanity, a new order of things, and a new creation! Isn’t it interesting that in the beginning there’s a garden; at the end of time, in the new heavens and new earth, there’s a garden in the city of God; and in the middle of the story there’s also a garden, the one in which Jesus was buried. Don’t you see? Jesus’ death and resurrection is the hinge-point of history! As He died, He brought the old creation to an end, and as He rose, He ushered in a new creation. To use the logic of the Apostle Paul: Because Christ died, we died; because Christ lives, we live.
Takeaway: The Christian life is one of dying and rising with Christ. This is WHO we are, WHERE we’re headed, and HOW we live.
Following Jesus means embracing the rhythm of dying and rising with Christ. In the end, life has a plot twist. It’s the moment when everything we thought we knew is suddenly undone, and for the first time we begin to see the world as it really is.
Isn’t this what Jesus calls us to?