The Princess Bride is one of the pinnacles of human achievement. If you are not on board with this basic fact, I am not sure we have too much to say to each other. (However, I am only going to talk about the movie for about 1 more short paragraph, so I hope you will make it through.)
There comes a point where the protagonist is thought to be defeated. But it is explained that all is not lost… He is only “Mostly dead.” Our hero is revived (sort-of) and goes on to win the day.
The humor of this scene, of course, pivots on the fact that death is a binary condition; in other words, we either are dead, or are not dead. There is no ‘mostly dead.’ Or at least it appears that way. I am beginning to suspect that this scene, like much great humor, actually has a bit of wisdom running around beneath the surface.
I think that Jesus is a good illustration of the point. It is not at all that Jesus was only “mostly dead.” In fact, I think that Jesus was very, very dead.
There is of course, the physical aspect of it. Sometimes (ok, most times) I suspect we Christians are a morbid and unhealthy group, and we spend too much time in grizzly love with the details of his execution. On the whole, I don’t spend much time and energy pondering this aspect of things. But I believe that they are true. And they are relevant to the point at hand. So consider, with me, the physical:
The number of lashes he was assigned to was nearly equal to the number given for a death sentence in the first place. So he begins the whole process, “mostly dead.”
He is beaten repeatedly, forced to carry a cross large enough to nail him to. His sentence is carried out. Crucifixion is a diabolical, brilliant, despicable punishment. But when he does not die fast enough, an impatient soldier finishes the job with his spear.
But the physical portion is just one aspect of the whole thing.
Jesus was dead politically. Crucifixion was the worst that the Roman’s had. It was reserved for the bottom of the barrel. Subjecting him to this kind-of death was a way for him to be set apart by the authorities, marked as the worst among them.
Jesus was dead religiously. The Hebrew authorities, who claimed authority over all aspects of his people’s lives, are the ones who turned him over because they did not have the ability to punish Jesus in the ways that they wanted to.
Jesus was dead socially. He had invested in Judas, and in Peter. There betrayal was only the most obvious. Because the rest of them all scattered when things fell apart.
Jesus was dead idealogically. He had made grand claims around who he was, and how things were changing. And yet, it seemed like his drama was going to end just like all the others.
Jesus was as dead as dead could be.
The guy in the Princess Bride who brings back Wesley is named ‘Miracle Max.’ And bringing somebody back from physical death (even if it is only mostly dead) is a pretty cool miracle.
Yet… Jesus’ return is a whole different thing. It is not only a physical return. His ressurection is also political, and religious, and social, and idealogical. This is a pretty cool thing for lots of reasons. But this morning, the thing I am thinking about is how this is something I get, too. No matter how dead I am, no matter what ways I am dead, there is something more.