The fascination of Easter
I can honestly say I still don’t know entirely what to make of the narratives that describe the days following the Resurrection of Jesus.
by Geoffrey Hall
I always look forward to Easter. Not just because it’s springtime, although that’s an added bonus. And not just Easter Day, although it is always also a welcome festival and our family makes an effort to plan something special to mark the day. But the themes and scripture of the entire season of Easter are truly fascinating.
Even in light of all of the Easter sermons I’ve prepared and preached, all the reading, and all of the prayer time I’ve spent on Easter, I can honestly say I still don’t know entirely what to make of the narratives that describe the days following the Resurrection of Jesus.
I know the teaching of the Church. I know what is preached and what indeed should be preached. I’m also very well aware of the many layers of Easter meaning but, when all is said and done, this event of Resurrection is so much more than just that. It’s so much more than an event. Never do the writers of Scripture attempt to make it believable, plausible or even credible for that matter. What took place was nothing short of miraculous and it changed the world — past, present, future and forever.
The earliest of the celebrated Christian festivals, Resurrection is at the heart of what it is to be Christian. “‘Did Jesus rise from the dead?’ is the most important question regarding the claims of Christian faith,” says one source claiming to give the subject of Resurrection an "objective treatment." To say the least! Because of what Adam did, all people die. Because of what Jesus did, all will be made to live. The Apostle Paul goes so far as to say that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and … our faith is futile.”
In his post-Easter appearances Jesus is recognized and then not. He speaks and suddenly disappears. It would seem that the resurrected Jesus has the ability to walk through doors and to walk miles with those who were closest to him without them even being aware of who he is. A quiet breakfast with a charcoal fire on the beach and then — Is Jesus body or spirit? If he is only a spirit (a ghost), then how to explain that we was able to eat? Is he only seen by faith? Or could his invitation to Thomas have proven once and for all that it was the physical body of Jesus standing before the doubting apostle?
Paul met him on the road to Damascus and, after discourse with him and a three-day blindness, experienced radical conversion. The Apostle Paul would go on to be responsible for much of our Resurrection theology.
In *Living the Resurrection, Eugene H. Peterson says of the women at the tomb related in the Gospel of Mark: “Mark, in his terse, abrupt ending, highlights the shattering astonishment experienced by these three women. The women were ‘beside themselves, their heads swimming.’ They were ‘stunned’ and said nothing to anyone (verse 8, MSG). Resurrection wonder, indeed.”
Finally, according to Luke, in the Book of Acts, in his last spectacular appearance Jesus ascends to heaven.
It’s fascinating, perhaps even too fascinating.
Resurrection transcends even time, although from all biblical accounts there was a specific day (the third) on which the Resurrection took place. It is also and at the same time a monumental statement about who God is — who Jesus is. Better put, rather than the Resurrection defining Jesus, Jesus defined Resurrection as the true character of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.
We rightly proclaim every day, “Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!” He was once raised but brings Resurrection to bear every time we of faith gather to pray or to celebrate Eucharist. In acts of anamnesis (remembering) we memorialize the death and Resurrection of Jesus until he comes again in great glory. Resurrection is constantly present with us, shapes who we are, how we see and interpret the world. During the Easter season especially, but also at all times, we give thanks for the Paschal Mystery into which we are invited to enter and live by faith day by day.