Jesus: the mission puzzle piece
By Guest Columnist Nelson Santa Ana
When we go searching for something that is lost or valuable, we call it a quest. The word “quest,” itself, makes a search sound important and noble. The Quest for the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, or Amelia Earhardt’s Spirit of St. Louis are the types of adventures about which books and movies are written.
In spite of how fancy it sounds, we have all been on quests. Some are aggravating and not very noteworthy, like the quest for the missing sunglasses I eventually found on top of my head. Some are short and very intense, like the time my one-year-old son slipped out of his stroller in a parking lot while I was tying a Christmas tree to the roof of my car. In this space, however, we are going to encounter a quest that took place 2000 years ago. In the process, we will realize that we are on a quest as well. Not a quest for a lost object, but a quest for a lost truth. A quest of faith.
The background to this quest centers around Jesus of Nazareth. Where we pick up the story, Jesus has been accused of crimes He did not commit, condemned as a criminal worthy of death, flogged mercilessly, crucified, murdered, and laid in a tomb for three days.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they could go and anoint him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” Looking up, they noticed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him.” (Mark 16:1-6, CSB)
Here we see three women who followed Jesus went on a quest to see his grave and tend to his body. That’s pretty close to the modern day equivalent of going to place flowers on a loved one’s grave. But, on the way, something dawned on them. The stone that keeps the tomb sealed was very heavy. In the ancient Near East, a tomb would be carved into the side of a hill and a small trench would be dug in front of the entrance of the tomb. At this point, a large stone that covered the entirety of the entrance would be rolled into the trench. So a heavy stone had to be rolled upwards in order to get in the tomb.
The women quickly realized they couldn’t move this stone on their own. Their quest to see Jesus was in danger. How could they possibly move an obstacle that was larger than themselves?
Everyone all over the world, like these women, is on a quest as well. Our quest is to seek to know the reality of spirituality and there are all different kinds of beliefs. Between atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians and many other religions, there is a plethora of options for what to believe. But ultimately, no matter which group you would place yourself in, all of us are seeking to do the same thing. Not seeking after God, but seeking to fill a void in our lives.
Blaise Pascal, a Seventeenth Century philosopher, said we are all on this quest because we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that we strive to fill. Everyone seeks to fill this void with different things in an attempt to perform some sort of self-surgery to close our holes. It’s like doing a 750-piece puzzle and not having the last piece. It’s frustrating and incomplete. Thus we try to fill that hole with different things. We try money as if we can buy our way to fulfillment. We try power as if controlling others will fulfill us. We try fame as if a brief spotlight on our lives will lead to inner satisfaction. We try knowledge as if understanding the world will help eradicate the pain caused by it. We try addictive behavior as if temporarily numbing the emptiness will make it go away. Eventually, though, rather than filling the void, these become more obstacles to overcome. And all along, none of these puzzle pieces actually fit.
So what does this missing puzzle piece look like? In the women’s quest for Jesus, they see an angel who tells them they are looking for the wrong thing. They were seeking a crucified, dead, and buried Jesus. That’s often where our personal quests get off track. There are so many misconceptions about Jesus. For some he’s a legend, though history clearly vouches for his existence. For many he’s just a good prophet or teacher, but that doesn’t really make sense because He called Himself the Son of God. If He willingly deceived people, then that makes him a liar and not good.
If you look at the Biblical account about Jesus, C.S. Lewis, in the book Mere Christianity, points out that there are only three viable options for who He is.
He could be a liar because when he claimed to be the Son of God, he knew it wasn’t true. The problem with this is if Jesus was a liar, then surely his disciples would have known it. He taught the most radical, God-following messages and claimed to be without sin. His disciples did everything with Him for three years. They would have seen the inconsistencies. Yet they were willing to die for Him! Sometimes people are willing to die for a cause, but how often are people willing to die for a cause they know isn’t true?
Another option is that Jesus was a lunatic. That when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, he actually believed it was true. The problem with this theory is that He consistently taught the same things over 3 years, consistently exhibited normal social behavior, and none of his opponents seriously accused him of being insane. You don’t put a lunatic to death for what he says, you disregard him.
The final option and the consistent message of the Bible takes us back to the tomb. “He Has Risen!” Jesus is the Risen Lord. The truth of Jesus is that He was dead, but now He is alive! This is the message of Easter. He took our sins, suffered our death, and was buried in our place. But sin could not control Him, death could not defeat Him, and the grave could not contain Him! He is Alive!
Now you may ask, what does this have to do with me? Remember that God-shaped hole in our hearts? Listen to what Jesus says about Himself. “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10, CSB). Jesus is what fills the void in our lives. He is the missing puzzle piece. Only He brings fulfillment, completeness, and satisfaction. Only Jesus! I wonder, do you know Him today?