Easter in the real world
Hallelujah, Christ is risen!
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:24
God raised him on the third day Acts 10:40
Jesus was raised from the dead. Only a couple of days earlier he had been executed as a trouble maker, a dangerous political activist and heretic. The resurrection shows that God the Father vindicates Jesus. What Jesus has done was the will of the Father who sent him.
That is what the resurrection was to Jesus. But what does it mean to us?
I am an Evangelical. Ask an Evangelical about the meaning of Easter and you will get forgiveness, salvation and similar answers. True these were achieved at the passion, but they are a result of the crucifixion. Jesus died for all people and salvation is available to all is true whether or not he rose from death.
So other than Jesus being vindicated, what is the meaning of Easter, how does it affect us now? I will try to answer by looking outside my own tradition.
Last Easter Pope Francis said at his Easter address:
“Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory.”
“Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.”
This grace is a strength, not a weakness, the Pope said. Rather, “those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.”
Since then there have been the downing of a Russian jet in Egypt and attacks on Lebanon, Turkey, Paris and Brussels. The flood of refugees from Iraq an Syria to the EC has become epidemic, refugees in middle eastern countries are uncountable. Then there’s continued violence in Ukraine and Afganistan, not to mention Boko Haran. The world is a violent place.Less so for Western Europe than in the 1970s with the Northern Irish troubles, Baader-Meinhoff and separatist groups in Spain. The world has always been a dangerous place.
The Jews would have recognised this at Passover, they were celebrating their release from an oppressive regime in Egypt whilst being occupied in their own country by another oppressive regime. There were a number of insurrections at that time in Judea, which the occupying Roman authorities put down brutally. Into that context come the death and resurrection of Jesus, surely the resurrection which happened in violent times has something to say to our violent time.
People are divided on how to respond to the violence of our times. Christians are divided on how to respond. Where do we draw the line on where to fight back, where to build protective walls and where to do nothing? It is sis by some that evil prospers where good people do nothing.
I have no definitive answer. This blog is just another voice in the debate, as are all my blogs.
But it boils down to what your idea is on the sovereignty of God. Is God fully in control of everything, micromanaging to a fine degree and who plans all kinds of tragedies to punish us for our sins. But the Passion of Jesus is not like that. Natural disasters and violence are nowhere in the list of things that Jesus has overcome, and I think we are wrong to speak as if he has. Instead the resurrection came out of violence, without doing anything violent itself. Violence does not have the last word, resurrection has the last word. Death does not have the last word, life has the last word.
All the violence inflicted on Jesus by humans has been transformed by God in the resurrection into love, reconciliation, peace and forgiveness, without a hint of violence. The resurrection reveals God’s sovereignty in the midst of violence and it has an effect on us and on the world: It transforms us into the people of resurrection.
God did not react to the violence of men with violence. Those who expected Jesus to do that were disappointed. God reacted with reconciliation and love. Our job as Christians is to do the same.
I conclude with the words Pope Francis open his Easter address last year:
Jesus Christ is risen!
Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!