“Easter still matters, but as a recurrent energy of emergence detached completely from the thought or imagining in mind of Jesus’s intervention in history. That’s shriveled and puny.” -W.S. Di Piero, essayist and poet.
If not for the resurrection, the four gospel writers would not have bothered to tell the story of Christ. But do we really know what that implies? It means that everything about the story of Christ can only be understood in the sunlight of the resurrection. Which also means that everything about our story, the life of pursuing Christ, can only be seen as the projection of that resurrection. But to what depth have we pondered resurrection?
Liberal theologian have whittled away resurrection into a metaphor, rejecting its historicity through the academically imposing sounding process of “demythologization,” or as hallucination of desperate disciples on a weird “trip.” Such brushing away of the resurrection experience is whimsical. It lacks any historical seriousness, an ahistorical rehashing of the past to fit one’s prejudices.
A good historian goes to the witnesses, not as a skeptic, but as a listener, which assumes willingness to accept the claims.This does turn the listening historian into a credulous idiot, but a genuine critic. For only when listening and accepting the possibilities can one truly bring together the various and sometimes divergent claims and begin to get to a more accurate core.
From a critically historical standpoint, you cannot deny that the disciples had a resurrection experience. You have to explain away too much to explain the resurrection as hallucination or gullible country boys hoodwinked.
But the liberals are not the only one shriveling resurrection into a mere metaphor. Evangelicals pride themselves in their orthodox belief in resurrection as a historical event. But when it comes to application, they are brothers of liberal theologians and detractors. At the end of most Easter sermons, people are called to look at spring, at the return and thus the tenacity of life, and have hope. The return of the birds and buds are produced as evidences of the return of Christ from the dead, so get back up and pursue your dreams. Such a sham! This is, indeed, “shriveled and puny.” Winter gives away to spring, but spring eventually returns to winter. This is a cycle of life. Resurrection is not a season of the cycle of life. Resurrection is a single event shattering that cycle into a new type of life that is beyond anything we have seen. Spring, actually, is the metaphor for Resurrection, and a poor one since it can only point to it dimly.
Nevertheless, we evangelicals keep preaching resurrection as a metaphor. That it is near spring makes it even harder for us avoid that slide. The current marketing blitz to make Easter as profitable as Christmas does not help. Easter bunny keeps getting into the church, and then into our sermons.
If there is any analogy that might get us to see what happened that morning, the Big Bang theory might be it. It is a singular event which science cannot explain but which helps scientists make sense of what happened after the blast. The theory of Big Bang gives such satisfying framework that it is used to predict what will happen billions of years into the future. The Big Bang also explains today as we are composed of molecules that were first concocted from that explosion of energy.
Christ’s resurrection is a singular event. We live in a new space-time continuum. Resurrection is now our ground of all reality, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. Whereas the Big Bang was the creation of matter, the resurrection is about a new world that encompasses matter and spirit. And as inevitable as the result of Big Bang, so is this new creation. God will make all things new, but God leaves us the choice whether we participate in it or leave ourselves out of it.
This is why Christianity is not a religion. It is not about a way of living. It is about the whole cosmos! It is about life itself and what is going to happen. This has always been the reason for the missional impetus, which is unlike any other religion. This is why the early followers greeted each other with the words, “Christ is risen.” This was not a creative campaign for mass indoctrination — make people repeat it enough and they will believe it. The greeting reflected their conviction that they were living in a new reality, and its greatness constantly broke forth in their praise and even in their greetings. Indeed, there was no greater news than this truth, so all other greetings sounded “shriveled and puny.”
“Christ is risen!”