This Easter falls on April 1st, which means it lends itself to a number of jokes. Personally, I have an image of Jesus coming into the upper room where the disciples were hiding behind a locked door and saying, “Just kidding.” The problem with this depiction is that the resurrection is no joking matter. In this day and age the cool thing to do is deny or question the reality of the resurrection. As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “Those who believe that faith is only for the here and now and deny the resurrection are most to be pitied.” They are to be pitied not be-cause their denial in the resurrection may lead to being denied eternal life. You see, no one knows how eternal life plays out and I can’t say with certainty that someone who doesn’t believe in the resurrection is banned from heaven. The gates of heaven are manned by God and not by you or I. No, those who deny the resurrection are to be pitied because they will never be able to grasp the full power of faith in this life. You see, those who deny the resurrection are selling their faith life short and fail to embrace the depth of God’s love for all.
I would never be presumptuous by trying to explain the resurrection and all its implications for the world. Just to scratch the surface of the different ramifications of Jesus’ death and resurrection fills libraries throughout the world. Where deniers and believers of the resurrection go astray is when they fixate on one aspect or the resurrection and fail to widen their lens. Deniers accept that Jesus died on the cross, but refuse to accept that he rose from the dead. They refuse to see Jesus as God’s sacrifice for all of humanities sins and they refuse to believe in a God who would demand such a sacrifice.
Many believers only see the resurrection as God’s sacrifice for sin and refuse to go beyond that under-standing. What happens is people get caught up on one idea and can’t budge.
The truth is that there is a whole wealth of activity going on in the death and resurrection of Jesus and Jesus being a substitute for us is just one of them. There are political, social, moral, and ethical consequences attached to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Once the lens is widened and a bigger picture is formed it makes one look at scripture, the gospels, and particularly Jesus and the early church differently. What God reveals to the world through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is that justice will be the victor in the end and sin, death, and evil will be destroyed. Living in the faith that justice will reign because of God’s actions in the resurrection brings about a peace that surpasses all understanding.
I realize that it is tough to see God’s justice coming to fruition in today’s chaotic and unjust world, but that is the beautiful thing about faith – you don’t see it, you believe it. In the Gospel of Mark there is no post resurrection appearance of Jesus. The women come to the tomb, the see an angel and an empty tomb, they are told to go tell the disciples that Jesus has risen, but they run away afraid and don’t tell anyone. Why such an abrupt ending? I think it is because people had to live by faith and trust and that meant the disciples too. Our multiple understandings of the resurrection come from the early church and their faith. The disciples had to trust that Jesus rose and that God’s plan through Christ was successful. We know that they came to terms with the reality of Jesus’ resurrection because they got their act together and created the church. The early believers trusted in the resurrection and lived out their lives in the faith that God was active in the world to conquer evil and create justice. In Mark the disciples never see the resurrection, but they believe it happened and their belief made all the difference.
Faith in the resurrection is the difference between trusting that God’s will is being done in the world and not trusting in God’s word. Think what a pitiful faith life it would be to not trust in the resurrection. I don’t know how Jesus resurrection happened, I don’t know what it was like when he descended into Hell, but I do know that believing in Christ’s journey from life to death to hell to resurrection makes life here and now a lot easier.
Peace, Pastor Laura