God's Politics

God's Politics

Jim Wallis: The Victory (Part 1)

I am on spring break with my family this week. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, I wanted to share with you the concluding chapter to my book, The Call to Conversion. It’s a reflection on the cross and resurrection, “The Victory.” It will be posted in three parts: Below is the first of the three.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matthew 28:57).


Jesus is alive. That was the rumor that spread through Jerusalem that first Easter morning. Women came to the tomb early in the morning, the first witnesses to the resurrection. Their testimony as women was not even admissible in court under Jewish law; the word of a woman had no public credibility in that patriarchal culture. But God chose to reveal the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection first to women. They were told to report the astonishing news of the empty tomb to the men. At first, the men did not believe it.

Jesus’ first appearance was also to a woman, Mary Magdalene. She was in the garden near the tomb, stricken with grief. The one who had accepted and forgiven her, the one whom she loved so deeply, was gone. She saw a figure she thought was the gardener and said to him, “They have taken my Lord. Do you know where they have laid him?” Then a familiar voice called her name, “Mary.” She looked up and recognized him. “Master!” she cried. Her Lord had come back, and the heart of the woman who had been cleansed by his love leapt for joy. Mary went straight to the disciples with a simple testimony, “I have seen the Lord.” Their excitement must have been enormous.


The disciples were in hiding behind locked doors from fear of the authorities, says the Bible. They had seen what had happened to their leader and were afraid they would be next. So they huddled in secret.

The ones at the tomb who appeared as “young men in shining garments” told the women to go tell the disciples and Peter. Peter had always been the leader among the disciples, but he had betrayed his Lord three times with oaths and curses. Peter denied his Master from fear. The strong fisherman wept bitterly and became utterly dejected after the death of the Lord. Jesus especially wanted Peter to know of his resurrection. He wanted to make sure Peter was told, not as a rebuke, but so Peter would know that he was alive and that he still loved him. When the women told them the news, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John, younger and faster than Peter, arrived first and waited at the entrance, peering into the darkness. Peter, always the impulsive disciple, didn’t stop at the entrance; he went right inside. He had to see. He had to know. They saw the empty tomb, and they believed.


Then there were the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize Jesus until he broke the bread. They also rushed to tell the disciples. Imagine the situation. The air was electric with rumors and reports of witnesses who said they had seen him. Most of the disciples had not yet seen him and were full of wonder. Could it be? It was too good to be true. A world that had ended for them three days earlier now seemed to be opening again.

Then Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said, as he looked into their eyes. Think what they must have felt at that moment. He showed them his hands and his feet. “It is I, myself touch me and see.” They could hardly believe what they were seeing. He even took a fish and ate it, just to show them he was real. He recalled to them the Scriptures and his own foretelling of his death and resurrection. It was really he, and he was really alive.


Thomas wasn’t there. When the others told him, he didn’t believe it. Perhaps wounded with pain and disillusionment, perhaps filled with bitterness and cynicism, Thomas would not let his hopes be rekindled. He said, “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, unless I put my fingers in the place the marks were, and my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Later, Jesus came to his disciples again. This time, Thomas was present. “Thomas,” he said, “put your finger here and see my hands. Put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas must have witnessed the marks of Jesus’ suffering with tears in his eyes. “My Lord and my God,” he humbly exclaimed. For Thomas, and for them all, unbelief was turned to belief when they saw their Lord and the marks of his suffering. They were converted by the resurrection.


The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. He had touched their lives as no one else ever had. He was the one who loved them, and the one whom they had grown to love. Jesus was alive again and among his disciples as before, but now in a new way. The first words spoken to Jesus’ followers at his empty tomb were, “Do not be afraid. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” And the Scriptures say, “When they saw the Lord they were filled with great joy.”

Jesus of Nazareth was delivered up by the chief priests and killed by the Romans under Pontius Pilate. He was dead and, three days later, was alive again. A man who died had been raised from the dead. History has been able to offer no other believable answer to the fact of his empty tomb.


The guards who had been posted at the tomb ran to tell the chief priests what had occurred. Their very lives were at stake for failing to prevent the tomb from being opened. To break the Roman seal that had been placed at the entrance to the tomb was against the emperor’s law and punishable by death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was, then, an act of civil disobedience. The chief priests agreed to protect the guards if they would go along with a story they made up, saying that the disciples had stolen the body.

But the story failed. Something had happened and the disciples had lost their fear. A dejected and defeated band was filled with faith and confidence. They had seen the Lord, and they had been converted.

When the disciples saw Jesus, they came out of hiding. Until then, they had been cowering behind closed doors, controlled by fear. They had feared the Jewish authorities and the Romans who stood behind them. They had feared the power of the soldiers, the courts, the temples. And they had been afraid of their own faithlessness and inadequacy.


Until they saw Jesus, the disciples viewed the world the way others did. The central reality of their lives had been the power of the system and their own powerlessness. But when they saw him, they unlocked the doors, came out, and began turning the world upside down. The disciples were converted; they knew another reality then, one that was truer, greater, stronger, and a more compelling authority than the realities that had paralyzed them with fear. Jesus had risen, and Jesus was Lord.

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posted April 3, 2007 at 11:55 pm

That was beautiful, Jim! Thank you.

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posted April 4, 2007 at 1:03 am

great story! i’m convinced – Jesus is alive!

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ernie abella

posted April 4, 2007 at 1:50 am

it is true isn’t it. it takes a revelation of another reality for disciples to break through from the old. the disciples had been cowed by the “system” – the only “reality” they knew up to that event. much like those in Soweto then, would refer to the governing institution as system – as in, ‘the system is lying again’, when referring to propaganda on tv. the “other” reality of the resurrection, the life of Christ in the believer and his actions, presently “gathering up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” needs to be over-arching vision over all “realities”. if believers are to fully appropriate the reward of the cross, and to matter at all in the present, then resurrection life must be the only life we now “know”.

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posted April 6, 2007 at 1:24 am

What a powerful story and such a unique way to interpret it, Jim. Your reading of the texts is touchingly personal and profoundly powerful. I will look forward to your book!

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Steve Belttari

posted April 6, 2007 at 2:21 am

Keeping us from preaching the gospel openly in our culture is done more subtly. The story teaches the need to be bold in presenting the truth of the gospel. For the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved from eternal damnation.

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posted April 6, 2007 at 5:02 am

Reading this makes me happy,and have courage in the face of our present powers that be that are mutilating our earth with toxins,and wars that are slaughtering thousands,and the massive rage within mankind. We all need such upliftment right now,and need to live once again in harmony without destroying each other, our planet and the message of love and forgiveness that Jesus came to teach us of. Thanks for a profound story Jim,I especially liked the last three or so paragraphs. We must love each other or die!

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posted April 6, 2007 at 5:49 am

Beautiful commentary, Jim. Whenever this story is written, I wish the writer would mention another proof of the power of Jesus’ resurrection – the resurrection of many dead saints which arose and came out of their graves after His (Jesus) resurrection and appeared unto many. Matt. 27:52-53. These risen saints also spoke to the power unleashed by the Lord’s own resurrection which overcame and defeated the enemy, death. I’m sure their return to their bretheren, also helped to give the frightened disciples renewed hope and confidence.

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posted April 6, 2007 at 2:23 pm

This is a fine article, but I have to raise one quibble – by describing Mary Magadalene as being the one whom Jesus had “accepted and forgiven”, you are coming close to that old inaccurate conflation of Mary Magadalene with the various depictions of a prostitute or otherwise “sinful woman”, when in fact a more accurate reading of Mary’s past suggests nothing of the sort. Just needed to make sure that point was out there. Let us all strive to have love triumph over fear!

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posted April 6, 2007 at 4:57 pm

Beautiful reflection. The resurrection of Jesus gives me hope that love will conquer fear and hatred, the fear and hatred which exists within my very self and all humanity. At times I can easily become like the disciples after Jesus was put to death, dejected and fearful about the state of the world around me. War, violence, poverty, mistreatment, indifference, and injustice. Yet, when I can recognize Jesus in the other, just as Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus, I am filled with love and compassion. Jesus in the stranger, in the enemy, in the homeless, in the conservative, in the liberal, in the Republican, in the Democrat. How does God work this conversion within me? Only by my cooperation to be in right relationship with those who are the ‘other.’ Only by my willingness to get outside my comfort zone, to listen to the ‘other’, to die to self. Thank you God for showing us the way back to you through the example of your son. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13) Peace and good to all.

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Rev Anthony Barber

posted April 6, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Dear Jim: Good Reflection on the resurrection. Unlike those who say it is a myth, we as christians need to proclaim that He Is risen, even death could not hold Him….and in Him we too, will overcome sin and death. Also, we must be reminded that there should be no divorce between “Ye must be born again” and challenging unjust conditions. Salvation is through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross alone…but the whole Gospel is for the whole man or woman, boy or girl… Remember William Wilberforce? Let’s not be “Christian Left” or “Christian Right”…both take a partial truth and make it the whole truth…I have always said that only God can take His justice for sin and love for Man to the cross and not compromise either one…Happy Easter!

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posted April 9, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Respectfully, I just want to say I personally don’t believe in salvific theologies, I don’t think God should need to see blood in order to forgive people. This is somewhat strange to me, how so many people can agree on this. I personally believe that Jesus was murdered due to fanaticism, because the Torah clearly states that false prophets deserved to be murdered and so Torah-believing Jews murdered him. Perhaps his followers were so perplexed that this was the only way for them to process what had just happened, and so they created the resurrected Jesus. Maybe he was reborn in their hearts, maybe that’s what that means. I think Jesus lives in people’s hearts, I don’t believe that people return after they’ve been dead (his brain didn’t receive any oxygen for three days, his brain cells would have been dead, I just can’t reduce him to a zombie). I like the living Yeshua, the one who preached about social justice, the one who was an affront to the authorities. I like the innocent Yeshua who taught non-violence, not the man-God in whose name (and in whose absence) wars were waged.

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posted April 9, 2007 at 6:20 pm

I thank you for sharing this wonderful story of the resurrection. I belive that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the father, and one day He will return to gather His Sheep. People who are not christian will never understand the true meaning of this story. Because if that can’t except Christ as there personal savior they will never allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to Christ.

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