The crucifixion is not for us. It is and must be for others.
Resurrection is for us. It is and must be, as well, for others.
Last week, I wrote that I have a suspicion that we aren’t faithful to the text if we apply more meaning to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem than ought to be derived from it; that the only lesson that can be learned from that part of the story is irony. Incidentally, we tend to minimize, if not neglect wholesale, the absolute importance of Resurrection Sunday.
Theologically speaking, death-burial-resurrection is referred to as the Christ-event: a triplicate that says that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, the resurrection is not possible without something being dead. (I’ve argued the point that ‘revival’ in its commonly misunderstood American religious context makes no sense given that something that is revived must first be dead, making the clamoring for revival to be little more than a masochistic example of self-incrimination.)
The resurrection is not some kind of postscript; it is the perfection of faith, the fulfillment of generations’ longings, hope replaced by confidence in that which happened. That which is, courtesy of the God who is.
Indeed, faith is completed with the empty tomb, replaced by life in the victorious Christ.
You see, we can identify with the triumphal entry: here comes Jesus to kick [insert preferred synonym for the anatomical bottom here] and take names! We like the fiction that Jesus came and died for us–after all, it’s like cashing in that Get Out of Jail free card and rolling a ten to land on Free Parking. (For more on this, here’s an old post on my thoughts on the Passion weekend.)
What we have trouble with, however, is the empty tomb. And we struggle with it because it forces us to react. The death of a person is one thing–people die, people mourn. To rise from death is something which puts us into a position where we have to choose what to do with it. The discomfort comes from the facts that 1) our lives are essentially futile because we are preparing ourselves to be worm’s food; 2) what we do is ultimately gauged according to the standard of a sinless person who got a paycheck for work he didn’t actually do; 3) what is known cannot be unknown. Death can be ignored, it is ultimately not newsworthy. Crucifixion happened on a fairly regular basis in Antiquity. Resurrection, though, is the ultimate example of man biting dog. It’s good news; gospel, literally. There is a way out of the existential morass, and all we need to do is follow Christ. Which, if the gospel narratives are any indicator, is so easy that it’s difficult.
There will undoubtedly be some readers who think I’m going on a fundamentalist evangelistic rant here, but what I’m not suggesting is that you start going to your local church and turn into one of them. Most of these churches and most of these people aren’t worth your time and, if we’re being perfectly honest, they–pastors and laity alike–don’t think you’re worth theirs. American Christian subculture is largely a rat’s nest and a prison of mediocrity, locked from the inside. (CS Lewis posited that if hell is locked, it is locked from the inside. I suggest that hell, then, probably looks a lot like your local evangelical church. Nicely done, Jack. Well played.) The fact of the matter is that the invitation to follow Christ will likely force one to put to death much of that which one has ambition to do or be.
We live to be the crucified Christ for others, so that the power of the resurrection might be realized in another. In turn, they become the crucified Christ for others. Crucifixion, resurrection, crucifixion, resurrection. life, death, Life, death, Life. That generally requires us to not be religious cheeseballs, and in that respect, we’ve largely failed others. If you’re one of others–and that’s perfectly fine by me, by the way–I apologize for the way(s) in which we’ve visibly crapped on a message that could really change your life. We should treat the things that matter with a sense of propriety that extends far beyond Jesus action figures and tone-deaf, pompadoured televangelists who keep hawking a cheap, false gospel.
The power of the message is not in that Jesus died. It is in that, despite death, he lives. Friday doesn’t matter to God anymore. Nor should it matter to us. Why? Because he was resurrected. Telling the story in real-time would dictate something that we’ve long ignored or forgotten. We are a Sunday people with a Sunday message. And instead of convincing people of how completely crappy they are, perhaps we should show them how much we care. Of course, that would require us to care.
Perhaps we religious types are the ones who need to be saved, after all.
I hope you all had a great holiday weekend, whether it was marked by celebrating the resurrection or simply enjoying it with your family and friends. As usual, thank you for reading. –b.