“Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward. . . . But Jesus kept silent” (Mt 26.59-60, 63a).
Trayvon and Zimmerman are now household names for most Americans. For many, justice was served. For many others, justice was ignored.
The national media suckers us all into a pragmatic, simplistic view of and solutions to tragedies like this one. It’s all about this or all about that. The solution is changing this or removing that.
Newspapers and networks have a vested interest in provoking fights. It sells. Generally speaking, major news agencies are like boxing promoters: hype two heavyweights and put them in the ring together. Punches mean dollars. As soon as the fighters get old and tired, they move on to the next title bout with two new up-and-comers. We get duped every time and wounded people are left without cut men. I might suggest the very notion we refer to one by his first name (a humanizing effect) and the other by his last name (a dehumanizing effect) is way of encouraging another round.
I read the Memphis paper every day and not a day goes by where a teenager wasn’t gunned down, stabbed or beaten to death. It’s usually not until I get to the sports page that I read anything of non-morbid interest. This would be true of most cities far bigger and more violent than Elvisland. Yet, for most street-level homicides there is little attention above the fold. That is because on this side of Eden life is cheap, race is exploited and people are commodities.
The “Trayvon and Zimmerman” situation is a tragedy indeed. As much attention as it has (rightly) drawn, we still think far too small about it. We ask questions about one armed man’s mindset toward a hooded teenager. What was he thinking? What did he do? All the while, we ignore and avoid the elephant in the room: what sort of world is this where death reigns? What sort of world pits us, almost instinctively, against one another? Respectfully and despite President Obama’s words, we are all Trayvon and we are all Zimmerman.
We live in a post-Genesis 3 world where anger is front page news (Mt 5.21-22).
“So [God] drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen 3.24).
We are not in Eden anymore. We thumbed our nose at the Tree of Life for the world of death. We chose anger over peace. What do people who live outside of Eden do? We kill one another (Gen 4.8). “Trayvon and Zimmerman” is the gazillionth iteration in a post-Edenic society. We now live in a world where laws, courts, judges, juries and attorneys are necessary for civil well-being. And as good and necessary as they are, they are nevertheless impotent to make themselves unnecessary. Our problem is far bigger and deeper than racism toward each other. Our problem is rebellion against God. It always has been. Always will be.
This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ makes the most sense of and for this world. In Mark 3.12, after his baptism, Jesus was “impelled” into the wilderness to disarm Satan as the Second Adam. The word for “impelled” (Gk. ekballo) is the same word used (in the Greek version of the OT) for what God did to Adam in Gen 3.24. For those evicted from Eden into the thorn-ridden, pain-enveloped, death-controlled, Jesus was “driven out” to get them.
God has sent our Redeemer. That meant treating Jesus like Adam so that Adam could be restored. Jesus had to go out to the rebel camps, disarm their ruler, rescue the children given him (Heb 2.1-15) and trace his steps back to Eden with them.
Whatever you might think about justice in State v. Zimmerman, nothing compares to the injustice of World v. Jesus. Israel concocted a joke of a trial. Rome reluctantly chose vigilante justice over the rule of law. And everyone wagged their heads at another poor criminal publicly crucified. Tsk, tsk. Poor Jesus, he had a good run but all for what?
It was our sorrows he carried; our griefs he bore (Is 53.4). We hid our face from him as if he were the one stricken by God and afflicted. We thought the cross was a window into justice, but it was a mirror reflecting all our iniquities. Only Jesus didn’t run to CNN or Fox News to gain an audience. He kept silent, for sinners like me. We ran our mouths against God (“the woman you gave me,” “the serpent this, the serpent that”) and Jesus kept his mouth shut before God and men. He did what Adam should have done. For sinners like me.
Jesus died and was raised to create a world where death is not front page news. In Christ, death is old news. The church is the new community where peace and forgiveness reign among Christ’s people. They don’t sue one another because they know they are all guilty before God (1 Cor 6.1-11). They would rather be together than right (Mt 5.21-26). Jesus is the firstborn of the creation (Col 1.18) and his church the embryonic reflection of his world to come. It’s a world ruled by truth, not lies; generosity, not theft; grace, not slander; forgiveness, not bitterness (Eph 4.28-32).
We don’t need presidents, judges, pundits or civil rights leaders either defining this situation or solving it for us. God has already done both. We are all Trayvon and we are all Zimmerman in that we are all citizens of the post-Edenic world. We have been trying to make this world better since Genesis 3, to little avail. Our hope is that God sees our pain, hears our cries and creates a new world where there is only light (Rev 21.23f.). It’s world of no hoodies or guns. Maranatha.