Against the Current
‘That the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to all the nations’
– Acts 26:23
Paul’s words above give us one of the most profound sentences ever spoken. ‘The Christ must suffer.’ Why did Jesus have to suffer?
Many times, I’ve sat on a bluff in northern Canada and watched the Athabasca River below me. It’s a milky torrent of glacier water surging forward to empty, ultimately, into the Arctic Ocean. However, never once, in all my years of watching, have I seen any of its water — not even the tiniest molecule — flowing upstream against the current. Things don’t go against the current!
But Jesus did.
Jesus refused to accept the world as it is. He refused to ‘go with the flow’ of humanity. This one man, Jesus Christ, would seek to change the current of human civilization by swimming against it.
He went against the flow of humanity, in a way no other human ever did. He walked on water, he cured incurable diseases, he exorcised demons, he averted natural disasters, he alleviated hunger, he hugged lepers, he was completely selfless, and infinitely self-giving.
He was one drop of water in a relentless current that, in fact, bucked the current. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was brutal; straining against the force of millions of gallons of water a second.
This is why Christ had to suffer.
The current finally overcame him. Jesus died bucking the current, and he never gave an inch. Yet, it didn’t truly overcome him. He resisted to the end. His death was also a victory.
For the first time in history, someone had bucked the flow to the bitter end. The death of Jesus represented a mighty change in history! The crucified Jesus had broken the powerful currents of human civilization. The crucified Jesus, but not the broken Jesus. As Paul testifies in Acts 26:23:
‘Christ had to suffer [conquering the powerful currents of humanity] in order to be the first to rise from the dead [creating a new way to be human].’
The word we translate as ‘first’ here is the Greek word protos, from which we also get the word prototype. Christ is the prototype of a new humanity: a humanity that reflects the way God created humanity in the beginning, before the flow went all wrong. Christ is the first to rise up from the decay of humanity and become a new, immortal, self-giving man. He is the first-born of a new kind of humanity.
Jesus has brought change! He has created a new way to be human!
As Christians, we’re being remade in the mold of this new humanity: the likeness of Christ. And so, we too should expect to swim against the current of today’s society. We have been given new values, new visions, and new vocations.
We have risen with Christ, and so we are to set our minds on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of the Father. (Col. 3:1)