Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Return

This was what the angels would have been waiting for, if they had been certain what to expect. He had come back to his throne, and he would reign forever and ever.

It had been 33 years they had been waiting, plus those nine months before that which their minds could scarcely compass. That the Lord of all creation should confine himself to the limitations of a human being was enough to beggar their understanding, but at least, despite the confines of that finite flesh, to be human was to be made in the image of God. But that he should be so much less again, an insentient egg taking root in a woman’s womb, how were they to understand that? They marvelled and they worshipped afresh at the greatness of a God who could make himself so small.

There was no part of being human that he had exempted himself from. The ordinary childhood, the refugee experience, the learning to work by his “father’s” side, supporting his widowed mother until his brothers were ready to take over the responsibility. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, frustration, the daily burdens of the children of Adam: he had born them all and done so without sin. And then he had gone forth to do the Father’s will on a larger stage. He had spoken the very truth of God into the ears that would hear, declaring judgement on the bondage of the empty traditions of men, and mercy and forgiveness so enormous that the souls of the self-righteous were offended. And, just as he spoke the words of the kingdom, so he did the deeds of the kingdom, making the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame to walk. He spoke in authority to the storms without, and the wind and the waves obeyed him; he spoke authoritatively to the storms within, and demons relinquished their claims on the hapless and helpless. He had even raised the dead.

And then ... well, if angels could cry, they would have cried at the horror of it: the betrayal, the traitor’s kiss, the malicious mockery of a trial. Who did these creatures think they were to stand in judgement on their Creator? And then, the utterly unbearable – the beating, the mocking, the humiliation and the crucifixion; and the angels could not bear to watch as the Beloved himself became the sin-bearer, alone, forsaken and tormented on that dark and dreadful hill.

But now he had returned, triumphant, and sin and death and hell were captive in his train. That did not surprise the angels, they knew who he was and had never doubted his transcendent power. But there were two things that did amaze them, two things that were now changed forever within heaven itself. The first was that he still bore the scars of his torment, and those wounds were too bright to look upon, for from them the love that was before all worlds poured itself out upon the loveless, and this was the greatest beauty they had ever seen.

And the second thing was also a great mystery, for though he returned in the full glory of his godhead, he also returned in his humanity, carrying the race of Adam in himself to the very throne. The beloved son was also the firstborn of the new creation, going ahead of his brothers and sisters to prepare a place for them, and to intercede for them as their great high priest. And the angels bowed their heads and marvelled.

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