It would take much more time before Jesus’ disciples would begin to remember, to understand, to develop their beliefs – but they had been warned.
Long before the death march of Holy Week, Jesus had literally told them he would suffer, die and rise again on day three, but they either missed it or didn’t want to hear it.
Then in the same conversation he gave them an even more puzzling thought to consider: ‘Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will gain it.’
This original word for ‘lose’ is apoleia which means ruin or death but without total destruction. Hmmm… It took some extra digging but I learned that apoleia means a state of disrepair or a devaluation of something that causes it to be basically worthless; alive but separated from its purpose; existing but wasted.
So let’s read this again: ‘Whoever wants to save their life will waste it, but whoever wastes their life for me will gain it.
Apoleia is used a few times in the New Testament like when speaking about desires that cause apoleia in our lives, or when a woman is accused of apoleia for using expensive perfume to anoint Jesus, or when he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane reminding his Father that he has kept the apostles from apoleia.
It sounds like Jesus is saying that clinging to the usual pursuits of life like comfort, money, fame, power, etc. will ultimately lead to a wasted life. But letting go of the usual pursuits and committing our waste to him brings the freedom and purpose we were intended for.
I’ll leave it to you to think through.
‘Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
‘Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.’ – John 20 (NLT)
Imagine the emotions.
You have given up everything in order to become a disciple of this fabulous itinerant rabbi and you have lived with him every day for years. You’ve seen the miracles, heard the wisdom, witnessed the compassion, felt the love. He has defeated every opponent and gathered the popularity of thousands of people as you traveled together through the countryside. You have learned things you never before considered and your admiration, amazement and love for him have only grown.
You are absolutely convinced that he is the one who God sent to wrestle the freedom of your people from the clutches of the Empire.
But within hours he is dead and the disciples who traveled with him have scattered. Imagine the fear, the lostness, the hopelessness. Such a wasted life…
But that first Easter morning was the beginning of something new: Jesus had ‘wasted’ himself but here he was, alive and in a new body. From that day forward human waste would be defined by the contrast between selfish living and godly living. His followers would come to learn that death had been redefined, life had been redefined, future hope had been redefined.
Easter represents the other end of the story. Today millions of Christians around the world are declaring to one another, ‘He is risen!’ and returning the answer ‘He is risen indeed!’
To put it another way, Because of Jesus I am alive – fully alive – from today until forever.