by Mike McKinniss
There are probably a few crazies out there, who, like me, fixate on words. My more outgoing friends are fascinated by the interrelations between other people–how one personality interacts with another and another and another, creating intricate webs of fluid society.
Interesting, no doubt. My excitement, however, is aroused at the conversations between words on a page. I find inexplicable pleasure from a well crafted sentence. (It took me days to get over Steinbeck’s opening sentence in Travels with Charley: “When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch.”)
Although a word, like a person, is most fully a word in community, it needn’t be in relationship to be admired. Ogle supermodels, if you like; I have been caught obsessing over a single word striking a pose on a plain white sheet: the balance or imbalance of the ascenders and descenders (the upward climb of the d and the downward fall of the p), the feel of the word in my mouth, its etymological back story, and most of all the latent range of meanings and the infinite conceptual possibilities they present.
The current case study in my psychosis is vindication. The word has occupied my brain and infiltrated my regular vocabulary for the better part of half a decade now. What is it? Put simply, vindication is the state of having been proven correct. It is the rightful overturning of a guilty verdict. Some confuse vindication with victory against long odds. True vindication requires, actually, failure. And then it requires a third party to elevate the defeated to triumph. In short, vindication is resurrection.
The summation of Jesus’ life and message may be found in Mark 1:15. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news!” Everything Jesus said and did every day was intended to demonstrate, to prove, the truth of this proclamation. The glorious kingdom of God, in which the entirety of creation would be reconciled and restored to its hijacked glory, was taking shape right before the throngs who came to hear and see what this Galilean was doing. The Creator was making all things new, and it was all happening, according to Jesus’ declarations, in and through himself.
Others had made similar declarations around the same time that Jesus had. In each of the generations preceding and following Jesus, men had risen to announce that the Lord was working through them to restore the people of God. Yet each of their lives ended violently as tragic proof that they were not, in fact, God’s chosen vessels of restoration. Everyone knew: The Lord’s agents of redemption do not die in the attempt.
So it was, it seemed, at Jesus’ crucifixion. It did not have to be written. An interpreter did not have to stand at the foot of the cross to inform the people. The Jews of Jerusalem knew what Jesus’ death meant. However wonderful his words, however miraculous his deeds, however the extent of his compassion, the crucifixion announced the failure of Jesus’ proposed program for redeeming creation.
Indeed, this would have been the lesson to learn from the life of Jesus for all time had the Creator not intervened, for the resurrection is God’s final stamp of approval on all that Jesus had said and done. The empty tomb is the Lord’s affirmation of Jesus’ project. This is God saying to all the world, “This is precisely how the world is remade. This is exactly how I have intended to make all things right.” Moreover, the resurrection is the vindication of Jesus’ faith in his Father.
It’s a beautiful word, vindication. This Easter, I am happy it is a vital part of God’s vocabulary, as the Lord’s vocal response to a life of faith. And if the printed word is unbalanced, with no descenders, it is altogether proper, since vindication always concludes with elevation and since vindication, by definition, is always the last word.
(To learn more about Mike, please visit our Contributors page).