Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: Nonsense
1. Is it important to you that the story of Jesus be explainable, that it make “sense”? Why or why not?
2. The story of Jesus has shaped culture powerfully over the last two thousand years. So many of our other stories and myths derive from it that it now can seem normal. Why do you think the first hearers of these stories considered them nonsensical, outlandish, even scandalous?
3. If you were going to write a story about a messiah in the modern day, what elements would it have?
For we did not follow cleverly designed stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. – 2 Peter 1:16 (NIV)
One of the surest signs that the gospel might be true is how much sense it doesn’t make. Surely if you were going to fabricate a story about victory and salvation you’d make it more logical. Your main character would have an arc—an upward one. You wouldn’t write a story about a poor powerless kid, who lived a poor powerless life, who died a poor powerless death, and then after being resurrected was still poor and powerless, only with the addition of several wounds. You wouldn’t claim that somehow this should be counted glory and salvation.
This is Peter’s point. “Don’t you think if I were going to make up a salvation story, I could do a better job than this? What kind of hack do you take me for?” He knows it doesn’t make sense; he’s just telling you what they saw. He’s telling you that it changed everything.
Later commentators would work hard to make the gospel story logical, to string it together with prophecies and predictions and portents and plans and systems. Like Peter’s hearers, like you and me maybe, they couldn’t stand the nonsensicality of the original version. They insisted that if it were going to matter, it had to be understandable, from A to B to C, if-then-therefore-ergo-in-conclusion-amen.
But the first ones? The ones who were there? They knew it didn’t make sense, and they didn’t care. They just said, “We were there. We saw it. We don’t understand it, either. But it’s true.”
For all that I have seen and witnessed of your glory, sensible or non-, I thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.