I’m trying not to make this a grumpy old theologian post. I had a great holy week. In my tradition, we haven’t typically made a big fuss about Easter. That’s something other people did. Every Sunday was Easter for us. Yada, yada, yada. I am so happy now that some in my tribe are finding value in defining time around the Christian year, instead of time simply being one damn thing after another. So, to go to a Good Friday service and to have a full Easter celebration was good stuff for me.
Having said that, my appreciation for what God has accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus has changed over the years. It’s gotten bigger. And churches in general tend to explore a narrow set of themes during Easter. So dominant is one particular view of the atonement (penal substitution), that people can scarcely imagine other meanings.
So, here’s what I wish that someone had said. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that the final age is upon us, and with that an alternative to the powers of this evil age.
The surprising thing about Jesus’ resurrection is not that a human was raised from the dead. A common Jewish belief in Jesus’ day was that everyone would be raised from the dead on the Day of the Lord. What is surprising about Jesus’ resurrection was that it happened before that day. It signaled that the full and final purposes of God were on their way, breaking into our present experience and bringing with it a new range of human possibility.
The death of Jesus was more than just a sacrifice for sin. It was God’s judgement on a world given to us by the principalities and powers of this evil age. Our problem is not just or even primarily that we commit sins, our problem is that we are trapped and complicit in a world that has gone its own way, that no longer corresponds to the lordship of the Creator. Our problem is not only, or even primarily, that we need to be forgiven. Our problem is that we need to be set free from the oppressive reign of sin and death. And I am convinced that for most of us, this takes the form, not of evil, but of apathy, of resignation. That the way things are are just the way things are. That we’ve become content to be good or forgiven or wealthy, when what we’ve been called to in the resurrection is subversive revolution.
This is because the cross of Jesus is more than just God’s judgement. It is also a demonstration of God’s power. The response to this age, to a power as control-over-self-asserting-look-out-for-number-one is not more of the same. The power that resists the powers of this age is the power of enduring, self-giving-for-the-sake-of-others, love. This kind of love–this kind of power– breaks open the realities of the new age, an age in which God’s reign can be seen. This kind of power stands in contrast to the tools of power wielded by the kingdoms of this world. It has no use for drones.
And the fact that this is the kind of life that God raised from the dead demonstrates that this is the kind of life that will stand in the judgement, the kind of life that will endure in the age to come. Those of us who participate in this life, who carry in our bodies the death of Jesus, who know that the power of God’s Spirit is expressed as humility and peace and joy and love and kindness, belong to the future day of God’s glory now. We belong to a different day, to a different reign, to a different power, to a different view of what it means to be human. We belong to a revolution.
I wanted someone to wake me from my apathy, to show me that, in the resurrection, life has been unleashed and I can’t stay the same and find enduring life. Would somebody please say that! That the distant rumors that the empire is a fraud have become a shout of revolution in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus. I owe them nothing. And my allegiance to a new and different way is a sure bet–as sure as the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
Will somebody please say that!