The old Negro spiritual song, “Were you there when they crucified by Lord?” also asks, “Were you there when he rose up from the grave?” The song’s response is “it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” When you think of the cross and the resurrection, do you tremble or is it business as usual?
I confess there is much about the resurrection I find bewildering. It is both wonderful and confronting. At its heart is a mystery. It is common knowledge everybody dies; and then once dead, they stay dead. Yet, in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago a messianic hopeful who died a cruel death at the hands of the Romans didn’t stay dead.
His disciples found it all a bit mystifying. In the various accounts in the gospels they either scatter, go to ground, are subdued with doubt, or are totally confused. The thought that Jesus was alive was truly incomprehensible.
In fact, the gospel accounts themselves seem somewhat contradictory, that is until we realise that even 30 to 40 years after the event, when the gospels were written, the followers of Jesus were still struggling to understand and articulate what had happened. They knew that Jesus was alive and that the resurrection changed everything, but it was still full of mystery and wonder.
The God they worshiped was no longer just the Creator but the God who raised Jesus from the dead. The resurrection demonstrated how God was saving humanity from its rebellion and wickedness. It showed once for all that God is relentless in grace and despite our rebellion, our violence and our sinfulness God cares, forgives and loves.
I think we still struggle to truly understand the enormity of the resurrection and its implications. We often reduce it to little more than a hope of life after death. Only occasionally do we capture a glimpse of its reach which is as wide and as far as the renewal of all creation. We stop to celebrate it one day a year and so easily forget it not only changes our future but every moment of our lives.
In this sense the resurrection is to be celebrated and enjoyed every day. Not because we fully understand it, but because it is full of mystery and can only be marvelled at. While we still await the fullness of the resurrection which we will only experience after death, each day can be filled with the joy of God’s forgiveness, the mystery of God’s mercy and the grandeur of God’s grace. That is what Easter is all about.
Thankfully Jesus was not “resurrected into heaven” as the article suggested but arisen from the dead to life on earth. We celebrate that death no longer has the last say, not only in the future, but also every day as well as today.
Stephen L Baxter