Thursday, March 24, 2016

“Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!”

Jesus stands before you. Yes, that Jesus. The one the Romans crucified on Friday afternoon. Yet he stands before alive again on Sunday morning.


          He’s the same Jesus. The real Jesus. He eats food the way he always did. The gash in his side and the holes in his hands and feet are beyond doubt.

          Yet he’s different, too. He seems able to appear where he wishes. He can pass through locked doors.

          He’s the same Jesus. The one we betrayed, before whom we are guilty. We thought he failed, disappointed us. Don’t know what to think now. Same with our despair, hopelessness, and fear. What must he think of us now!

          Yet he’s different, too. Jesus is here with no recrimination or blame for us. No suspicion or disappointment or victimization. Only happiness to see us again. Peace. He’s still willing to claim us as his people. Share the joy he has with Father with us. And use us for God’s purposes.

          If this is what forgiveness feels like, it is wonderful. Beyond words. Beyond expectation. Just “beyond”! Jesus no longer operates the way the world does, not that he ever did of course. But we didn’t realize it. Now it seems clear, or clearer at least. Real.

No tit for tat. No retaliation. No playing favorites. No manipulation. No exclusivism or hatred of others. No violence. Only generosity, sharing, caring, justice, welcome of strangers and enemies. All he was with us before his death he is with us after. Only no it makes sense, and even feels possible to us. I guess that what resurrection means!

Present with us again without any whiff of anything but freely given love, this is a whole new world. This is what God intended for us all along. A new world, a different life, new hope – but what does it all mean for us now?

Jesus bears the form of his death (that gash, those holes) in his new life. Can that mean we no longer have to fear death? That its threat to us is ended? That everything we were afraid to do or risk before are possibilities for us now?

This really is new – all of it. Nothing will ever be the same any more. [Mumford and Sons’ song “The Cave” says it perfectly:

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand.”]

          This is all unimaginable and incomprehensible, of course. So far outside the box of the “normal” and “real” (as the world accounts such things) as it is. Astonishingly, by raising Jesus from the dead God validates and vindicates his way of life as divinely approved, the way God himself lives as a human being. And vivifies us with that life as well so that this divinely approved and practiced way of life becomes ours too.

          Most astonishingly of all, Jesus’ resurrection means that God, the Almighty, the Creator, the Redeemer, the Lord, is revealed as best known to us a Victim. Yes, a victim. At least is a world or violence and victimization like ours.

            A whole new way of seeing and experiencing the world - God’s way of seeing and experiencing it – is the gift of resurrection to us. As well as all the other stuff I just said.

          And that changed everything we ever thought. Our lives with him before his death took on new meaning, as well as our Bible (the Old Testament). Remember how he told those two on the road to Emmaus (according to Luke): “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’" (Lk 24:25-27).

          [This new transforming insight enabled the disciples were

“able fairly rapidly to re-read the process leading up to Jesus' death as the story of the self-giving and self-revealing victim, who alone had known what was going on. They were able to understand that Jesus' death was not an accidental interruption of a career that was heading in another direction, but rather that his whole life had been lived in a peculiar sort of way toward that death, and that he had been aware of this. It is because of this that all the Gospel accounts are focused around the Passion, as the build up to it. The disciples, then, were aware that the intelligence of the victim which they now possessed was not only a post-resurrection intelligence, but had been a pre-resurrection intelligence in the person of Jesus alone. It was an intelligence that had, all along, been guiding the life and death that they had accompanied and witnessed. What was unique was the way in which, after Jesus' death they began to be able to tell the story of this life and death not from their own viewpoint, as muddled hangers-on, but from the viewpoint of the dead man, of the one who had become the victim. It is not as though they had invented a profound new insight into Judaism to honor the memory of a dead teacher. Rather they were now able to see clearly the inner unity of the interpretation of Judaism which their teacher had been explaining to them as with reference to himself. They were able to see his life through his own eyes: that is, tell the story of the lynch from the viewpoint of the victim's own understanding of what was going on, before the lynch, leading up to, and during it.” (James Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong)]

This wasn’t just new knowledge for us, a new kind of Gnosticism (there was plenty of that in our world). This insight into the identity of God revealed that we had heretofore been self-deceived, fully invested in the competitive crush in which we used and abused others for our own benefit and well-being. Embracing self-giving love is a total transformation of who we have been into new creatures. It’s really more that we were embraced by this transforming love, not that we embraced it, now that I think about it.

And that, I guess, is what it means to say “Christ is risen.” And to that I can only reply: He is risen indeed!

(I am indebted to James Alison’s wonderful reflections on Jesus’ resurrection in his book The Joy of Being Wrong)

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