In an early song, Bob Dylan sketched absurdity. “We sit here stranded, though we’re all doing our best to deny it.”
With uselessness and deception all around, memories of a former lover fill his mind. The presence of his lover-of-the-moment, he cries out, “makes it all too concise and too clear that Johanna’s not here.” After surveying his situation, he declares, “These visions of Johanna are now all that remain.”
A great song, but it raises hard questions. Granted Johanna was genuine in a world of junk. But if she was the real thing and now she’s gone, do memories of her signify anything more than the inevitability of loss? Are visions of Johanna less absurd than anything else? What’s their cash value?
That’s the question about any vision, including the one in our first reading today. In a time when Jews were being ruthlessly persecuted, the prophet sees God enthroned in heaven. A person that looks human (“one like a son of man” — Dn 7:13) approaches the throne and receives everlasting dominion over all nations. Through him, God will set things right for his oppressed people.
Really? Or is this picture just an imaginative way of making the afflicted feel better?
The question goes to the heart of Christianity, because Jesus claimed that he is this “one like a son of man” (see Mk 14:62). Similarly, in today’s Gospel, using different imagery, he signals his kingship over all (Jn 18:33-37).
Jesus made the claim at the moment when it seemed least credible. He indicated his lordship over everything while standing as a prisoner before a military governor.
But then, after an excruciating death, he rose from the dead. His resurrection vindicated his claim to lordship — and authenticated the vision of Daniel.
Sometimes Jesus’ lordship may seem incredible. The circumstances of our lives and the state of the world look more like a Dylan song than a Bible story. We may all seem stranded — and it looks to some people like Christians are doing their best to deny it.
But the gift of faith opens the eyes. The Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3) fills the heart with the assurance of the kingship of Jesus, hidden but already present and moving toward the transformation of everything.
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series and a writer for the Catholic News Service Scripture column.